Monday 27 May 2019

Ex-commissioner led campaign to 'denigrate' Garda whistleblower

Damning report finds Callinan smeared McCabe with the assistance of press officer

Former Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan at the Disclosures Tribunal at Dublin Castle
Former Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan at the Disclosures Tribunal at Dublin Castle
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

Former Garda commissioner Martin Callinan engaged in a campaign of false and defamatory statements against whistleblower Maurice McCabe - and was actively aided in this by his press officer Supt Dave Taylor.

In a series of devastating findings, the Disclosures Tribunal said the former head of An Garda Síochána went on "a frontal attack" against Sgt McCabe, telling a TD the whistleblower had sexually abused his own children.

Mr Justice Charleton found Mr Callinan did this to "head off" what he saw as the undermining of standards of duty and loyalty in An Garda Síochána.

The tribunal's third interim report said Mr Callinan made the comments to the then chairman of the Dáil Public Accounts Committee (PAC), John McGuinness, in January 2014. At the time TDs were considering whether to call Sgt McCabe to give evidence about penalty points abuses.

"Sgt Maurice McCabe, who exemplified hard work in his own calling, was repulsively denigrated for being no more than a good citizen and police officer," the judge said.

He found Mr Callinan engaged in a "campaign of calumny" against Sgt McCabe, aided by Supt Taylor.

The judge said they had a plan to spread a historic sexual abuse allegation about Sgt McCabe. The scheme "somehow evolved out of his cheek-by-jowl working relationship" Supt Taylor enjoyed with Mr Callinan.

Supt Taylor had alleged then deputy commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan was aware of the campaign.

However, the judge found there was "no credible evidence" to support this claim.

On the contrary, practically the first thing Ms O'Sullivan did on becoming commissioner was to get rid of Supt Dave Taylor from the Garda press office as she "neither trusted him nor liked him".

He also said that when Supt Taylor later came under Garda investigation over the unauthorised disclosure of information to journalists, he swore an affidavit that was "almost entirely made up of nothing but lies".

The judge paid tribute to Sgt McCabe, saying he had "done the State considerable service".

The findings of the report were welcomed by Sgt McCabe. His solicitor, Sean Costello, said his client felt vindicated following the publication of the 400-page report.

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris said he supported the judge's comments.

"I acknowledge the difficult time Sgt McCabe and his family have endured and I hope this chapter is drawing to a close," Mr Harris said.

"I will ensure Sgt McCabe and all Garda personnel referenced in the report receive appropriate supports.

"I will ensure An Garda Síochána is a safe environment for people to raise issues or concerns. The organisation will improve by having an open and inclusive culture."

It remains to be seen what implications the damning findings will have for Mr Callinan and Supt Taylor.

Mr Callinan retired from the force four years ago, but Supt Taylor remains a superintendent in the Garda traffic corps at Dublin Castle.

One of the main focuses of the tribunal was to examine allegations made by Supt Taylor that he was instructed by Mr Callinan to negatively brief members of the media about Sgt McCabe. Specifically, he claimed he was to brief them about a historic allegation of child sexual assault made by a woman known as Ms D.

This has been fully investigated and the Director of Public Prosecutions determined in 2007 that no offence was described.

In findings in relation to Mr Callinan and Supt Taylor, the judge said: "Their plan was that there was to be much nodding and winking and references to a historic claim of sexual abuse while, at the same time, saying that the Director of Public Prosecutions had ruled that even if the central allegation did not have credibility issues, what was described did not amount to an offence of sexual assault or even an assault."

Mr Justice Charleton said the tribunal was satisfied Supt Taylor had every reason to lie when he claimed Ms O'Sullivan was also involved.

"He was bitter about not being promoted, bitter about no longer being the press officer for Garda Headquarters, bitter about no longer traipsing in and out of the Garda commissioner's office, bitter about the crimes for which he was being rightly investigated, bitter about being arrested, bitter about having telephones and computers seized from him in the course of a criminal investigation, bitter about having to go to the High Court and recite untruths in an affidavit, bitter about having to decamp from Garda Headquarters to the less power-charged surroundings of Dublin Castle, and determined to get revenge on the person whom he saw was responsible," he said.

The judge said that instead of telling the truth to himself, or to the tribunal, Supt Taylor set out to destroy people by associating himself with Sgt McCabe and undermining Ms O'Sullivan.

The judge said Supt Taylor supplied a list of nine journalists to the tribunal whom he claimed were negatively briefed by him.

"The tribunal is not convinced that any of those journalists were ever egged on in publishing negative stories about Maurice McCabe or even in thinking less of him," the judge said.

He found that two journalists not named by Supt Taylor were encouraged to seek out Ms D and to publish a negative story about Sgt McCabe.

Mr Justice Charleton concluded conversations between Mr Callinan and Mr McGuinness took place as described by the Fianna Fáil TD.

Mr McGuinness testified that Mr Callinan told him following a meeting of the PAC that Sgt McCabe "fiddles with kids".

In a later conversation in a hotel car park, the TD said Mr Callinan told him Sgt McCabe had sexually abused his family and an individual and that he was not to be trusted.

The judge also concluded that a conversation Mr Callinan had with the Comptroller & Auditor General Seamus McCarthy before the same PAC meeting was as described by Mr McCarthy.

The C&AG said Mr Callinan told him Sgt McCabe was not to be trusted, that he had questions to answer and that there were sexual offence allegations against him.

The judge found the evidence of Fine Gael TD John Deasy was also correct.

Mr Deasy said Mr Callinan told him before the same PAC meeting that Sgt McCabe was "not to be believed or trusted with anything".

Mr Justice Charleton also found RTÉ journalist Philip Boucher-Hayes was telling the truth about an encounter in December 2013 he had with Mr Callinan and that the former commissioner and Supt Taylor were not telling the truth.

During this encounter, the journalist alleged Mr Callinan told him Sgt McCabe had "psychiatric issues" and had been involved in "the worst possible kind of things".

Mr Callinan has disputed the accounts given by the two TDs, Mr McCarthy and Mr Boucher-Hayes and denies smearing Sgt McCabe.

Irish Independent

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