Monday 16 December 2019

Garda HR boss denies 'grudge' motivated him to make 'going after' McCabe allegation

Maurice McCabe arriving at the Disclosures Tribunal in Dublin Castle (Brian Lawless/PA)
Maurice McCabe arriving at the Disclosures Tribunal in Dublin Castle (Brian Lawless/PA)
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

The Garda’s head of human resources has denied holding a grudge against a former colleague against whom he has made a serious allegation.

The Disclosures Tribunal heard evidence from John Barrett last week in which he alleged the force’s former chief administration officer, Cyril Dunne, has told him “we are going after” whistleblower Maurice McCabe at the O’Higgins Commission.

Mr Dunne strenuously denies the allegation.

At the tribunal today, Mr Barrett admitted he and Mr Dunne had a difference of opinion in relation to another matter too – how the force investigated and dealt with financial irregularities at the Garda Training College in Templemore.

But when asked by Michael McDowell, counsel for Sgt McCabe, he denied his allegation had been made as a result of a grudge against Mr Dunne.

“I feel no animosity for Mr Dunne and that is a matter of fact,” said Mr Barrett.

The Garda human resources director claimed Mr Dunne, who no longer works for the force, made the comment on May 13, 2015, the day before the commission began its hearings behind closed doors.

Sgt McCabe’s credibility and motivation for making complaints against senior officers was subsequently challenged by the Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan’s legal team at the commission.

Mr Barrett alleged Mr Dunne made the comment to him after holding him back after a meeting also attended by Ms O’Sullivan. She had left the room at that point, he said.

However, Mr Barrett did not make a note of it at the time or protest about it, something he now says he regrets.

Doubts have been raised over the date of the meeting as Ms O’Sullivan was in London for most of that day and Mr Dunne has instructed his counsel he was not in work late that evening as he was at a meeting of a sports club in Co Wicklow.

“There is confusion in my mind about the time, but none whatsoever about the remark,” said Mr Barrett.

The tribunal heard Mr Barrett had been appointed as a point of contact with Sgt McCabe in 2015 and engaged with him in a bid to sort out difficulties he was having in the workplace.

Evidence was heard of a lengthy meeting at Garda Headquarters in February 2015, which Mr Barrett took part in by phone, where Ms O’Sullivan and other senior gardaí discussed Sgt McCabe.

Mr Barrett said he believed there was “an alignment of commitment” to resolve the issues raised by Sgt McCabe.

Ms O’Sullivan made a number of contributions to the meeting.

He said the reason Mr Dunne’s comment a few months later “jarred” so much was he believed there was a genuine effort underway to assist Sgt McCabe.

However, a number initiatives were put on hold once the commission started.

These included plans to recruit industrial relations troubleshooter Kieran Mulvey and the roll out of seminars on dignity in the workplace beyond those already held at Mullingar Garda station, where Sgt McCabe was stationed.

Questioned by tribunal chairman Mr Justice Peter Charleton, Mr Barrett “absolutely” agreed that he felt Ms O’Sullivan was a truthful person.

He agreed that her sentiments were genuine when she had said whistleblowers may not always be right, but they should be listened to.

Mr Barrett also agreed he had invested heavily in sorting out the McCabe matters.

He said he had invested his credibility, time and energy but that it would have been a collective effort and he was not motivated by individual accolades.

Why then had he not rung the commissioner to protest after Mr Dunne’s alleged remark, Mr Justice Charleton asked. Mr Barrett said he didn’t have a good answer.

“I should have and I didn’t,” he said.

Mr Barrett said he was probably “swept forward” by other matters.

Earlier, the tribunal heard Sgt McCabe felt it was "open season" on him after the Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan's "disgusting" remark at the Public Accounts Committee.

At a meeting of the PAC in January 2014, Mr Callinan had said the actions of two garda whistleblowers, one of whom was Sgt McCabe, were “disgusting".

According to notes of a meeting with Mr Barrett in February 2015, Sgt McCabe said a number of gardaí in Mullingar felt they had support for their actions to "take it out on Maurice" following Mr Callinan's comment.

In relation to Ms O’Sullivan, Sgt McCabe had told Mr Barrett at the meeting he felt she had “thrown him back to the wolves”.

Sgt McCabe complained that he was not being engaged with and matters he raised were being ignored.

“The very clear sense I got was there was a hostile working environment in Mullingar,” said Mr Barrett.

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