Wednesday 16 January 2019

Ex-Garda Commissioner accuses TD of 'falsehoods' during Disclosures Tribunal testimony

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

Shane Phelan

Former Garda commissioner Martin Callinan has accused a high-profile TD of “falsehoods” and making “outrageous” allegations against him.

Mr Callinan firmly disputed the evidence of Fianna Fáil TD and former Dáil Public Accounts Committee (PAC) chairman John McGuinness.

The former commissioner also insisted he “never spoke” about penalty points whistleblower Maurice McCabe “in a derogatory fashion at all”.

He made the claim at the Disclosures Tribunal in the face of allegations to the contrary by Mr McGuinness and four other prominent public figures, Fine Gael TD John Deasy, Comptroller & Auditor General Seamus McCarthy, RTÉ presenter Philip Boucher Hayes and solicitor Gerald Kean.

The evidence of three of these people, Mr McGuinness, Mr Deasy and Mr McCarthy was put to him this morning.

They have each alleged, independently of each other, that Mr Callinan maligned Sgt McCabe in conversations which took place either before or after a meeting of the PAC on January 23, 2014, at the height of the penalty points controversy.

The tribunal is investigating allegations Mr Callinan was behind an alleged smear campaign against Sgt McCabe.

Mr McGuinness has claimed the then commissioner said Sgt McCabe “fiddles with kids” after the PAC meeting.

The TD has also alleged Mr Callinan sought a meeting with him the following day, at which he told him he would be making “a grave error” if he called the whistleblower before the committee as a witness and that Sgt McCabe had sexually abused his own children and nieces.

“These are outrageously serious allegations made against me and I cannot for the life of me understand why they are being made other than to say they are not true in any shape or form. They are simply not true. They are falsehoods,” said Mr Callinan.

According to a statement given to the tribunal, Mr McGuinness said that after the PAC meeting he went to shake hands with Mr Callinan.

He said that when he got down to him Mr Callinan “was in the flow of conversation about John Wilson”, a former Garda who was also a whistleblower.

The TD alleged the then commissioner was telling a story about Mr Wilson, when he was a garda, responding to an incident involving horses on Grafton Street.

“Commissioner Callinan in his own words said he (John Wilson) ‘pulled the knackers off the horse, he confiscated the horse, mounted the horse and rode it back to the barracks where he tied it to the railings. And the other fella fiddles with kids. And that is the type of f***ing headbangers I’m dealing with’,” Mr McGuinness said.

Questioned by Pat Marrinan SC for the tribunal, Mr Callinan denied ever say this.

He claimed that what happened was that he asked Mr McGuinness if Mr Wilson would be called as a witness.

He alleged Mr McGuinness responded: “You must be joking, sure he’s an f-ing header.”

Mr McGuinness denies saying this, but Mr Callinan said today: “That is what I said in my statement and that is the correct version.”

Mr Marrinan put it to him that former Garda press officer Dave Taylor had given evidence that he overheard Mr Callinan use the term “kiddie fiddler” after the PAC meeting.

Mr Callinan said he had never heard the expression before.

He also denied ever hearing the Grafton Street story about Mr Wilson before.

The former commissioner said he and Mr Wilson had both briefly served at Pearse Street Garda Station at the same time, but had been in different units.

He said he did not know how Mr Wilson got the nickname “Jockey”, but had assumed it came from the Scottish darts player Jocky Wilson.

Mr Callinan claimed McGuinness had given “a couple of different versions” of the conversation.

“I have provided my evidence to the tribunal. There is a great degree of variation between the accounts given[by Mr McGuinness],” he said.

In relation to a meeting he had with the TD the following day in the car park of Bewleys Hotel in Dublin, Mr Callinan said he requested the meeting as he wanted to propose an alternative to the PAC calling Sgt McCabe as a witness.

He claimed he wanted to propose that a chief superintendent of Sgt McCabe’s choosing be appointed to listen to his concerns.

Mr Callinan denied making the comments Mr McGuinness has alleged he made, to the effect that Sgt McCabe was not to be trusted and had abused his own children and nieces.

“That is absolutely false Mr Chairman. I have never said anything of that nature,” he said.

Mr Callinan added: “I never said Sgt McCabe was not to be trusted or that he had questions to answer.

“That is not the language that I would engage in with anybody.

“It is certainly not the language I would engage in in relation to colleagues or former colleagues with the chairman of the Public Accounts Committee.”

Mr Callinan also disputed the accuracy of a note Mr McGuinness later made of the meeting.

“I cannot accept that note is an accurate note,” he said, adding he believed there was “an element of fuzziness about it”.

Earlier, Mr Callinan claimed C&AG Seamus McCarthy “was mistaken” in his claim that the former Garda commissioner told him there were allegations of sexual offences against whistleblower Maurice McCabe.

Mr McCarthy’s claim arose from a conversation the two had outside the Leinster House committee rooms shortly before the PAC meeting began.

“I genuinely think there was some sort of misunderstanding in relation to what he thought I said on the day,” Mr Callinan said.

Mr McCarthy has given evidence that early in the conversation Mr Callinan referred to Sgt McCabe by name and made statements to the effect that the whistleblower was not to be trusted, that he had questions to answer, and that there were allegation of sexual offences against him.

“I think substantially the conversation took place, but I disagree with the content that I said Sgt McCabe had sexual offences against him. That is contrary to my understanding,” said Mr Callinan.

The former commissioner said he did tell Mr McCarthy that there had been allegations made against Sgt McCabe in 2006, that the matter was investigated, went to Director of Public Prosecutions, and the DPP decided there would be no prosecution.

He also said he did speak about Sgt McCabe in the context of an audit by the C&AG of the fixed charge penalty notice system, and pointed out that some of the allegations made by the whistleblower had not proved founded.

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