Tuesday 18 December 2018

Fianna Fáil TD rejects suggestions he was 'confused' about meeting with Callinan

John McGuinness TD at the Disclosures Tribunal in Dublin Castle, Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins
John McGuinness TD at the Disclosures Tribunal in Dublin Castle, Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

Fianna Fáil TD John McGuinness has rejected suggestions he was confused about what was said at a meeting where he alleges former Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan told him penalty points whistleblower Maurice McCabe had abused his family.

The former chairman of the Dáil Public Accounts Committee (PAC) was challenged on his account the meeting by counsel for Mr Callinan, Michéal P O’Higgins.

Yesterday, Mr McGuinness said that at the meeting, which took place in his car in the car park of Bewley’s Hotel on the Naas Road outside Dublin on January 24, 2014, Mr Callinan told him Sgt McCabe was not to be trusted.

The TD alleges Mr Callinan told him Sgt McCabe had “abused family and an individual” and that it would be “a grievous error” for the PAC to proceed with hearing evidence from the whistleblower.

Ultimately the PAC heard from Mr McCabe in private session.

Mr O’Higgins said the TD’s account of the conversation was disputed by Mr Callinan.

He said it was his client’s position that he told Mr McGuinness he had concerns from a data protection perspective about documentation provided to the committee.

But Mr McGuinness did not agree that this had been discussed.

The TD said this issue had already been the subject to correspondence between the commissioner and the committee. The committee’s legal advice on whether the documentation could be used differed from the legal advice of the commissioner.

Mr O’Higgins also put it to Mr McGuinness that his client proposed a solution which would have involved Sgt McCabe’s concerns being examined by a Garda chief superintendent as part of a new process.

However, Mr McGuinness said this proposal was never put to him by Mr Callinan.

“I didn’t reject the proposal. The proposal was not put in the first place,” he said.

He went on to say that the normal process under which such a proposal could have been made would have been for Mr Callinan to write to the clerk of the PAC and for the matter to then be considered by the committee.

Mr McGuinness said that even if he supported such a proposal – and he insisted no such proposal was made – it wasn’t for him but the committee as a whole to decide.

Mr O’Higgins said his client’s position was that he raised concerned about the appropriateness of Sgt McCabe giving evidence to the PAC in circumstances where it was Mr Callinan who was the “accounting officer” for An Garda Síochána.

But Mr McGuinness insisted Mr Callinan “did not go into any of that with me”.

At one point during what was robust cross-examination, Mr McGuinness said he was not confused in his recollection of events around the making of a note about the car park meeting and what he later told Sgt McCabe of the meeting.

He also insisted he had given his account to the tribunal as accurately as he could.

Mr McGuinness said after the car park meeting he spent two days considering what he had been told by the commissioner.

Ultimately he decided that Sgt McCabe was an honourable man who deserved to be defended.

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