Sunday 18 November 2018

Former garda commissioner denies she was hypocritical in dealings with whistleblower

Noirin O'Sullivan
Noirin O'Sullivan

Gerard Cunningham

Former garda commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan has denied she was hypocritical in her dealings with garda whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe during the O'Higgins Commission of Investigation.

Ms O'Sullivan gave evidence for the second day before the Charleton tribunal, which is examining whether unjustified grounds were inappropriately relied upon by the commissioner to discredit Sgt McCabe at the O'Higgins Commission of Investigation into allegations of garda misconduct in the Cavan-Monaghan division.

The tribunal has heard how Sgt McCabe resigned his position as sergeant-in-charge of the traffic division in Mullingar on May 18, 2015, while the garda commissioner's legal team had told the O'Higgins Commission they were instructed to question Sgt McCabe's credibility and motivation in making complaints.

Sgt McCabe told a senior officer he felt "under threat" and "if anything was to go wrong they would be down on him like a tonne of bricks".

“I still am at a loss to understand how Sgt McCabe believed that he was under threat from me or how I or we would be down on him like a ton of bricks," Ms O'Sullivan told the tribunal today.

Michael McDowell SC, cross-examining on behalf of Sgt McCabe, said that on hearing what was said at the O'Higgins Commission, Sgt McCabe might regard the garda commissioner's assurances of support as "fine HR talk."

"It was not nice HR talk, it was not hypocritical, it was not insincere," Ms O'Sullivan said.

The former commissioner said she invested significant time, energy and thought into providing supports for Sgt McCabe in Mullingar throughout 2014.

Ms O'Sullivan said she understood Sgt McCabe's perception of her could have changed as a result of the O'Higgins Commission.

"As commissioner, I had a very delicate balance of the allegations being made by Sgt McCabe and the rights of those persons to be able to respond and have the case against them heard," Ms O'Sullivan said.

She said this meant that she had to challenge and test the evidence of Sgt McCabe before the O'Higgins Commission in order to arrive at the truth.

Ms O'Sullivan said she had not instructed her legal team to challenge Sgt McCabe's integrity, and could not account for what had happened at the commission hearings, as she was not there.

Ms O'Sullivan said she accepted there were "factual inaccuracies" in a letter prepared by her legal team setting out their position which was presented on the third day of evidence at the O'Higgins Commission. But said she understood "the issue was cleared up" by Mr Justice O'Higgins.

Mr McDowell said the letter contained "gross falsehoods". He queried which garda officers had resigned as a result of allegations from Sgt McCabe, as stated in closing submissions to the O'Higgins Commission.

Ms O'Sullivan stated that her predecessor, Martin Callinan, had resigned. Mr McDowell said it was "a dark lie" that Commissioner Callinan resigned because of Sgt McCabe.

Ms O'Sullivan said that allegations of corruption and malpractice were made against Mr Callinan. "Corruption is corruption, it is one of the most gravest allegations that can be made against a police officer," Ms O'Sullivan said.

The tribunal resumes tomorrow when Ms O'Sullivan will give evidence for a third day.

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