Monday 21 January 2019

'Journalist said O'Sullivan was source of McCabe slur'

Journalist Alison O’Reilly arrives at the tribunal in Dublin Castle. Photo: Stephen Collins
Journalist Alison O’Reilly arrives at the tribunal in Dublin Castle. Photo: Stephen Collins
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

A journalist has alleged a colleague told her that former Garda commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan was the source of information that led her to believe whistleblower Maurice McCabe was a paedophile.

'Irish Daily Mail' journalist Alison O'Reilly told the Disclosures Tribunal her colleague Debbie McCann claimed to have been briefed by both Ms O'Sullivan and former Garda press officer Supt Dave Taylor.

The tribunal heard Ms O'Reilly's disclosure of this allegation to Labour Party leader Brendan Howlin prompted him 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 was the first time Ms O'Sullivan was directly linked to the briefing of journalists as part of an alleged smear campaign.

Although she did not have specific dates, Ms O'Reilly gave details of a number of conversations in 2013 and 2014 where, she alleges, Ms McCann expressed the view that Sgt McCabe had abused a child.

One conversation is alleged to have taken place around the time the names of prominent individuals appeared in the media for having penalty points quashed.

She said Ms McCann, whose father was a senior garda, told her she had had points quashed and was concerned her name would end up in the papers.

When the conversation turned to Sgt McCabe, Ms O'Reilly said Ms McCann told her he had abused a child who was now an adult. "She said everybody knows. All the guards know," said Ms O'Reilly.

Ms O'Reilly said that, during another conversation, she asked Ms McCann where she was getting her information. "She said the gardaí, she said someone up high in the gardaí, she said Dave Taylor, she said Nóirín O'Sullivan," said Ms O'Reilly.

On a further occasion, Ms O'Reilly said Ms McCann told her the information was coming from "the top".

"I just said 'who did you hear this from, your pal Nóirín?' She said 'yes'," Ms O'Reilly said.

Ms O'Sullivan has denied ever speaking to Ms McCann about Sgt McCabe. Ms McCann is due to give evidence in the coming weeks.

Supt Taylor has identified Ms McCann as one of 11 journalists he claims to have briefed negatively about Sgt McCabe.

Ms O'Reilly said that some time in early 2014, Ms McCann got the name and address of Ms D, the woman who made the allegation against Sgt McCabe and travelled to her home with the intention of interviewing her. No article was published.

She said Ms McCann told her she had spoken to Ms D for about an hour, that the now adult complainant had gone into detail about the alleged sexual assault, and that they were still in touch.

The tribunal heard that this is disputed by Ms McCann and Ms D's family.

Ms D's mother has previously given evidence that Ms McCann came to the door but left after a few minutes and no interview was given.

Sgt McCabe was cleared of Ms D's allegations in 2007.

Ms O'Reilly said Ms McCann was totally believable and very convincing in her account of Ms D's story. She said Ms McCann either "wasn't telling the truth then or isn't now".

"I can only tell you what she told me," she added.

Ms O'Reilly accepted she was involved in a dispute with her employers about another workplace matter, but said this had no bearing on her allegation.

"Just because I am taking a legal case against my employers, which everybody knows about anyway, doesn't mean that my statement to the tribunal is not correct," she said.

Earlier, former Irish Independent journalist Gemma O'Doherty said she believed an alleged smear campaign against Sgt McCabe intensified after she published an article in April 2013 about Mr Callinan having his penalty points quashed.

She also said she believed pressure brought to bear by former Garda commissioner Martin Callinan resulted in her dismissal from the newspaper.

Her evidence was disputed by counsel for An Garda Síochána Micheál P O'Higgins, who put it to her there was a pattern of her making allegations that were "unfounded and quite wild".

Ms O'Doherty rejected this.

Irish Independent

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