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Ex-commissioner accused of 'a dark lie' during heated questioning


Cross-examination: Barrister Michael McDowell. Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins

Cross-examination: Barrister Michael McDowell. Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins

Cross-examination: Barrister Michael McDowell. Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins

The cross-examination of Nóirín O'Sullivan at the Disclosures Tribunal involved some very robust questioning.

At one point, Michael McDowell SC, counsel for Maurice McCabe, accused the former Garda commissioner of telling "a dark lie", and at another stage he questioned her sincerity.

A packed public gallery at Dublin Castle witnessed the testy and heated exchanges.

Much of the barrister's focus was on the legal instructions she gave to her legal team at the O'Higgins Commission. Ms O'Sullivan says she instructed them to challenge Sgt McCabe's credibility and motivation, but not his integrity.

However, Mr McDowell put it to her that her counsel, Colm Smyth SC, did the exact opposite of what he was supposedly instructed, reading from a commission transcript to prove his point.

"I did not give those instructions," Ms O'Sullivan insisted. As far as she was concerned, Mr Smyth cleared things up at a later stage.

But Mr McDowell pressed further and asked if she was finding fault with her legal team. She said she was not.

Much was made of the fact she did not have a face-to-face consultation with her lawyers when the commission was beginning. Instead, her instructions were relayed via Chief Supt Fergus Healy.

Last week Chief Supt Healy said Ms O'Sullivan had been unavailable on the weekend her solicitor Annmarie Ryan had desperately sought a direct consultation. But yesterday Ms O'Sullivan contradicted this.

Not only had she been available, but she was never given the impression the consultation was sought.

The contents of a written submission by her legal team were also put to her. One paragraph dealt with the alleged impact Sgt McCabe's complaints had on colleagues.

"This includes the emotional toll, the reputational effect, and in some cases, being forced to resign," it said. The reference puzzled Mr McDowell as no officer had resigned over Sgt McCabe's allegations. When Ms O'Sullivan said that Martin Callinan retired in 2014, Mr McDowell described her response as "a dark lie" and queried if she was seriously suggesting the resignation was due to Sgt McCabe.

Mr McDowell also asked Ms O'Sullivan if her legal instructions had given Sgt McCabe reason to believe her "nice HR talk in relation to him was wholly insincere or hypocritical". The question appeared to rattle Ms O'Sullivan, but she issued a robust response.

"I invested significant time and significant energy and significant thought in terms of what structures could be put in place to support Sgt McCabe all throughout 2014 and 2015.

"There was nothing insincere, there was nothing hypocritical, and there was nothing of nice soft HR talk about that," she said.

The cross-examination continues today.

Irish Independent