Incorrect allegation Maurice McCabe 'blackmailed' colleague was a genuine error, Disclosures Tribunal hears
A senior garda has told the Disclosures Tribunal an incorrect allegation that whistleblower Maurice McCabe was “blackmailing” a senior colleague was a genuine error.
The claim was made in a letter submitted to the O’Higgins Commission by counsel for former Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan after lawyers were asked to justify a legal strategy that involved challenging Sgt McCabe’s credibility and motivation.
It was later discovered at the commission that the claim was included in the letter in error.
However, the Garda liaison officer to the commission, Chief Supt Fergus Healy, said he had no recollection of any apology being issued to Sgt McCabe for the mistake.
He said that in hindsight an apology should have been made.
The letter, drafted in May 2015, alleged Sgt McCabe had told Supt Noel Cunningham the only reason he made a complaint against another senior officer, Supt Michael Clancy, was to force him to circulate DPP directions.
The DPP directions related to an investigation into a claim that Sgt McCabe had sexually assaulted the daughter of a colleague, an allegation the DPP ultimately dismissed.
But it emerged later at the commission that Sgt McCabe had not made this comment to Supt Cunningham. He produced a tape recording of the meeting, which took place in Mullingar in 2008, to prove this.
Supt Cunningham’s own notes of the meeting concurred with the tape recording.
The document should have said Sgt McCabe submitted complaints “to” Supt Clancy, rather than “against” him, but the tribunal has yet to clarify exactly how the incorrect claim ended up in the letter.
Barristers involved in the drafting of the document are due to appear as witnesses next week.
Chief Supt Healy said that after Sgt McCabe produced the tape recording and Supt Cunningham produced his notes “it was accepted by all” that “a genuine error” had been made.
He also said Ms O’Sullivan, who he was liaising with throughout the commission, had not been aware of the false claim when she gave the initial go-ahead to challenge Sgt McCabe’s credibility and motivation.
Chief Supt Healy said the letter was only drafted after Ms O’Sullivan had given her initial instructions to her legal team.
Those instructions were based on advice from her barristers that credibility and motivation should be examined and the tribunal had heard Ms O’Sullivan went along with their advice.
The barristers formed this view following consultations with a number of garda officers. The tribunal heard they were told there had been “a change” in Sgt McCabe after he was refused access to the full DPP directions and he had begun making complaints against senior officers.
Asked about the extent of Ms O’Sullivan’s knowledge, Chief Supt Healy said he had briefed her that the refusal to give the DPP’s directions was “the linchpin for all these issues”.
Asked by tribunal counsel Kathleen Leader if he told the commissioner that Sgt McCabe held a grudge over the non-circulation of the DPP directions, Chief Supt Healy said he never used the word “grudge”.
But he did say it was felt the refusal to release the DPP directions was “the spark that lit the fuse”.
The tribunal heard that in a written submission to the commission in June 2015, lawyers for Ms O’Sullivan said that prior to this Sgt McCabe had made few complaints and these were adequately dealt with.
“Thereafter they multiplied and showed a tendency for exaggeration,” the submission stated.
The tribunal had previously heard that although Mr Justice Kevin O’Higgins determined many of the concerns Sgt McCabe expressed about Garda malpractice were well founded, serious complaints against a number of senior officers were either withdrawn by Sgt McCabe or rejected by the judge.