Wednesday 23 January 2019

Journalist 'heard catty remarks' but denies receiving negative briefing about Maurice McCabe - Disclosures Tribunal

Sunday Times journalist John Mooney
Sunday Times journalist John Mooney
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

A journalist has told the Disclosures Tribunal he heard “catty remarks” but did not get any negative briefing about penalty points whistleblower Maurice McCabe.

‘Sunday Times’ journalist John Mooney said he was aware a sexual assault allegation had been made against Sgt McCabe, but was also aware it had not resulted in a prosecution.

He said he believed the allegation did not meet the “public interest threshold” for publication.

Mr Mooney, a security correspondent, is one of eleven journalists former Garda press officer Supt Dave Taylor claims to have negatively briefed about Sgt McCabe between mid-2013 and March 2014.

Supt Taylor has claimed the briefings took place on the orders of then Garda commissioner Martin Callinan and with the knowledge of then deputy commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan. Both deny his claims.

While Sgt McCabe was investigated over an allegation made by a woman known as Ms D, the DPP decided in 2007 there should be no charges and what was described in the complaint did not amount to a crime.

Today’s hearing was told that when previously contacted by the tribunal, Mr Mooney replied that it was his practice as a journalist not to comment on news gathering activities or sources of information.

Giving evidence today, he said he had reflected on his position he believed it was possible for him to assist the tribunal.

Questioned by tribunal counsel Diarmaid McGuinness SC, he said that he personally was never briefed by Supt Taylor or any member of An Garda Síochána that Sgt McCabe was involved in child abuse or anything like that.

“That didn’t happen with me,” he said.

Mr Mooney also said that both former commissioners had threatened to sue him at various times.

“I don’t think they would be passing me confidential information with a view to undermining anyone,” he said.

The journalist was asked about phone contacts he had with Supt Taylor.

He said it was his practice to put allegations to the people. He was writing extensively about various matters to do with the Garda force and Supt Taylor was head of the Garda press office at the time.

Asked about phone calls which occurred after Supt Taylor was transferred out of the press office in June 2014, Mr Mooney said he would have “documented various matters” relating to the superintendent “and would have put certain issues to him”.

Mr Mooney was asked about an article he published in November 2010 about an internal Garda investigation prompted by concerns raised by Sgt McCabe.

He said he was aware of a rumour about Sgt McCabe at the time.

Someone had made a fleeting reference to an allegation involving Sgt McCabe, but he made his own inquiries and satisfied himself there was nothing in it.

Mr Mooney said he didn’t deal with “gossip and noise” and “parked the issue”.

Asked about his attempts to make contact with Ms D in February 2017, he said this was after a broadcast by RTÉ’s Prime Time about a false sexual abuse allegation against Sgt McCabe in a Tusla file being sent to gardaí.

He said he had sent Ms D Facebook messages in an effort to find out what had happened, but didn’t get a reply.

Questioned by Sgt McCabe’s counsel Michael McDowell SC, Mr Mooney said he thought he identified Ms D through her father as she was linked to him on Facebook.

Mr McDowell asked if he had seen articles in April and May 2014 arising out of an interview Irish Independent journalist Paul Williams did with Ms D, in which she expressed dissatisfaction with the Garda inquiry into her claims. The articles did not name Sgt McCabe.

Tribunal chairman Mr Justice Peter Charleton has said the investigation was “highly competent, balanced, [and] very, very thorough”.

Mr Mooney said he suspected at the time the articles may have been related to Sgt McCabe.

Mr Mooney said he felt “these matters weren’t fit for public consumption for the reason that allegations of this type, because of their nature, are shrouded in secrecy”.

“Even when they are before the courts, there are various privacy issues. The matter had been dealt with,” he said.

Examined by Supt Taylor’s counsel, John Ferry BL, about Supt Taylor’s allegations, Mr Mooney said: “I don’t think myself or the ‘Sunday Times’ would have made suitable targets for that kind of information.”

Mr Ferry said Supt Taylor’s position was that he would drop negative briefings about Sgt McCabe into conversations about other matters.

But Mr Mooney said: “I don’t think I would have been suitable fodder for a smear campaign.”

Mr Mooney told Mr Ferry he had heard “catty remarks” when the subject of Sgt McCabe arose.

He said this was a reference to someone telling him he was well able to pursue Garda management, but was didn’t go after someone else so hard.

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