Saturday 15 June 2019

Ex-commissioner denies he 'spun web of lies' at tribunal

Former Garda commissioner Martin Callinan at the tribunal
Former Garda commissioner Martin Callinan at the tribunal
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

Former Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan has denied "spinning a web of lies" about conversations he had with high-profile individuals about penalty points whistleblower Maurice McCabe.

The claim was put to him by counsel for Fianna Fáil TD John McGuinness, who has alleged Mr Callinan claimed Sgt McCabe was not to be trusted and had abused his own children and nieces.

Mr McGuinness, Fine Gael TD John Deasy and Comptroller and Auditor General Seamus McCarthy have all alleged Mr Callinan made derogatory remarks about Sgt McCabe around the time of a Dáil Public Accounts Committee (PAC) meeting in January 2014.

But during three days in the witness box at the Disclosures Tribunal, Mr Callinan has repeatedly denied making the comments attributed to him.

Mr McGuinness's counsel, Darren Lehane BL, put it to Mr Callinan that he was suggesting the TD falsified notes of a meeting with the then Commissioner in a hotel car park the day after the PAC meeting. He asked what possible motive his client could have for doing so.

"I cannot answer that, chairman. That is between him and his maker. I am happy to go to mine knowing I am telling the truth here," replied Mr Callinan.

Mr Lehane put it to Mr Callinan he had "spun a web of lies" and his evidence to the tribunal "has been an attempt to entrap Deputy McGuinness within that web of lies." Mr Callinan said this was untrue.

Earlier, counsel for Sgt McCabe, Michael McDowell SC, said Mr Callinan was inviting the tribunal to reject Mr McGuinness's evidence as a completely malicious invention.

Responding, Mr Callinan said Mr McGuinness had made "crazy and very, very serious allegations" against him. "I absolutely refute them," he said.

Mr Callinan said he found it "disconcerting" that Mr McGuinness had discussed matters with Sgt McCabe and former Garda press officer Supt Dave Taylor, whose protected disclosure was a major catalyst for the setting up of the tribunal.

Supt Taylor has alleged Mr Callinan ordered him to negatively brief journalists about Sgt McCabe, a claim denied by the former Commissioner.

Mr Callinan also denied that the general reaction of the force was "to close ranks" on Sgt McCabe. Mr McDowell pointed to a 2011 letter from Chief Supt Colm Rooney circulated within the Cavan/Monaghan Garda division, which claimed an internal inquiry into concerns raised by Sgt McCabe had vindicated standards and professionalism in the Bailieborough Garda district.

Last February, Chief Supt Rooney, now retired, apologised and said he now believed the views expressed in the circular were inappropriate.

Mr McDowell said as a result of the notice being circulated Sgt McCabe "was left vilified in this way as a crank".

Mr Callinan agreed it was a "foolish" letter, but said he had no recollection of directing then Deputy Commissioner Nacie Rice to defend the circular following a complaint from Sgt McCabe's solicitor.

As Mr Callinan was finishing his evidence, tribunal chairman Mr Justice Peter Charleton suggested his decision to appoint Supt Taylor as Garda press officer must have been one of the worst mistakes of his life.

"I absolutely agree with you," Mr Callinan replied.

Irish Independent

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