Wednesday 12 December 2018

Garda the 'likely' source on assault claims, says editor

Complainant declined to do interview on McCabe allegation

‘Irish Mail on Sunday’ editor Conor O‘Donnell
‘Irish Mail on Sunday’ editor Conor O‘Donnell
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

A journalist who attempted to interview a woman who made a sexual assault allegation against whistleblower Maurice McCabe is "likely" to have received her information about the matter from someone in An Garda Síochána, her editor told the Disclosures Tribunal.

'Irish Mail on Sunday' editor Conor O'Donnell said crime correspondent Debbie McCann proposed the story in early 2014 and went to the home of the complainant, a woman known as Ms D, to seek an interview.

However, she only got to speak to the woman's mother and no interview was granted.

No article appeared, the newspaper "did nothing more on it" and "it wasn't discussed again", Mr O'Donnell said.

The tribunal is examining claims by 'Irish Daily Mail' reporter Alison O'Reilly that Ms McCann told her the source of her information was former Garda commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan and former Garda press officer Supt Dave Taylor.

Ms O'Sullivan has denied this, but Supt Taylor has named Ms McCann as one of 11 journalists he says he negatively briefed about Sgt McCabe.

Much of Ms O'Reilly's evidence is disputed by Ms McCann, who is scheduled to give evidence today.

Mr O'Donnell said he did not know where Ms McCann got her information and had never asked her. But in response to Michael McDowell SC, counsel for Sgt McCabe, he said it was "likely" it came from someone in An Garda Síochána.

While Sgt McCabe was investigated over a historic allegation of child sexual assault, the DPP decided in 2007 that no charges should be brought and no crime had been described.

The tribunal has previously heard Ms O'Reilly was the source of information which prompted Labour TD Brendan Howlin to tell the Dáil in February 2017 he had been contacted by a journalist with direct knowledge of calls made by Ms O'Sullivan, during which she made serious allegations of sexual crimes about Sgt McCabe.

It has also previously heard Ms O'Reilly is in dispute with her employers about a workplace matter, with three lawsuits lodged. She has said this matter has no bearing on her allegations.

Yesterday, it emerged that a letter from a lawyer for the 'Mail' newspaper titles to the tribunal said his clients believed the state of Ms O'Reilly's relations with them at the time she spoke to Mr Howlin was a relevant issue and, in his clients' view, was a strong motivating factor in her actions.

Tribunal chairman Mr Justice Peter Charleton suggested to Sebastian Hamilton, group editor of the 'Mail's' titles in Ireland, that the company had taken sides against Ms O'Reilly.

Mr Hamilton said he didn't believe this was a fair characterisation. However, he said it didn't make logical sense to him that Ms McCann would say any of the things she was alleged to have said.

He added there was no supporting evidence for what Ms McCann is alleged to have said.

Mr Justice Charleton observed: "You know, it is possible you can have a grievance with someone and still tell the truth."

Meanwhile, 'Irish Times' crime and security editor Conor Lally said he was "extremely surprised" to be included on a list of 11 journalists Supt Taylor claims to have briefed negatively about Sgt McCabe.

Mr Lally said he was claiming privilege on his discussions with Supt Taylor. However, he said: "No member of the Garda ever, past or present, negatively briefed me about Sgt McCabe."

Irish Independent

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