Wednesday 12 December 2018

Maurice McCabe 'thrilled' with Disclosures Tribunal report but says findings 'hard to take'

  • Martin Callinan and Supt Dave Taylor 'ran campaign' against whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe - report
  • Scheme 'somehow evolved out of his cheek-by-jowl working relationship' Supt Taylor enjoyed with Mr Callinan
  • 'Sergeant Maurice McCabe, and who exemplified hard work in his own calling, was repulsively denigrated for being no more than a good citizen and police officer' - judge
  • Sgt McCabe 'had the interests of the people of Ireland uppermost in his mind' - judge
  • Judge concludes separate conversations between Mr Callinan and former PAC chairman John McGuinness and Comptroller & Auditor General Seamus McCarthy happened
  • Judge finds evidence of Fine Gael TD John Deasy and RTÉ journalist Philip Boucher-Hayes was also correct
  • Justice Minister thanks Judge Charleton for his investigation, highlights his remarks about McCabe 'doing the State considerable service'
Garda Sgt Maurice McCabe with his wife Lorraine (left), and former garda commissioner Martin Callinan. Photo: Barry Cronin
Garda Sgt Maurice McCabe with his wife Lorraine (left), and former garda commissioner Martin Callinan. Photo: Barry Cronin

Shane Phelan and Ian Begley

Garda whistleblower Sergeant Maurice McCabe has said the publication of the Disclosures Tribunal report means that he can finally move on with his life.

The Disclosures Tribunal found former Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan and former Garda press officer Supt Dave Taylor had a plan to spread a historic sexual abuse allegation about whistleblower Sgt McCabe.

Some of the players in the controversy include, from left, former Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan, her predecessor Martin Callinan, Superintendent David Taylor, Sergeant Maurice McCabe, former Tanaiste Frances Fitzgerald, former justice minister Alan Shatter, Children and Youth Affairs Minister Katherine Zappone
Some of the players in the controversy include, from left, former Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan, her predecessor Martin Callinan, Superintendent David Taylor, Sergeant Maurice McCabe, former Tanaiste Frances Fitzgerald, former justice minister Alan Shatter, Children and Youth Affairs Minister Katherine Zappone

In its third interim report, tribunal chairman Mr Justice Peter Charleton said the scheme "somehow evolved out of his cheek-by-jowl working relationship" Supt Taylor enjoyed with Mr Callinan.

The judge found there was "no credible evidence" then-deputy commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan played any hand, act or part in any campaign conducted by Mr Callinan and Supt Taylor.

The judge found; "Sergeant Maurice McCabe, and who exemplified hard work in his own calling, was repulsively denigrated for being no more than a good citizen and police officer."

Speaking on RTE's Prime Time tonight, Sgt McCabe said he accepts the findings in their entirety and said it is a relief for himself and his family.

Supt Dave Taylor, then Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan and then deputy commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan attend a meeting of the Public Accounts Committee in 2013. Photo: Damien Eagers
Supt Dave Taylor, then Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan and then deputy commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan attend a meeting of the Public Accounts Committee in 2013. Photo: Damien Eagers

“It has been a very long day – 12 years nearly – and we’re delighted with the outcome.

"I haven’t read it all yet, but myself, Lorraine and the kids are so thrilled it's out because it means it's finished for us now. All is over and I can get back to my normal job," he said.

The Sgt added that he was not surprised that the tribunal found that Mr Callinan and Supt Taylor worked together to spread allegations about him.

"It’s an astonishing finding. From the very start of the enquiry I knew they were involved  so it didn’t come as a major surprise... It’s hard to take."

The judge also said Sgt McCabe was "a genuine person who at all times has had the interests of the people of Ireland uppermost in his mind".

In findings in relation to Mr Callinan and Supt Taylor, the judge said: "Their plan was that there was to be much nodding and winking and references to a historic claim of sexual abuse while, at the same time, saying that the Director of Public Prosecutions had ruled that even if the central allegation did not have credibility issues, what was described did not amount to an offence of sexual assault or even an assault."

Mr Justice Charleton also concluded that conversations between Mr Callinan and former Public Accounts Committee chairman John McGuinness took place as described by the Fianna Fáil TD.

Mr McGuinness testified that Mr Callinan told him following a meeting of the PAC in 2014 that Sgt McCabe "fiddles with kids".

In a later conversation in a hotel car park, the TD said Mr Callinan told him Sgt McCabe had sexually abused his family and an individual and that he was not to be trusted.

The judge also concluded that a conversation Mr Callinan had with the Comptroller & Auditor General Seamus McCarthy before a PAC meeting was as described by Mr McCarthy.

Mr McCarthy said Mr Callinan told him Sgt McCabe was not to be trusted, that he had questions to answer and that there were sexual offence allegations against him.

Mr Justice Charleton also found RTE journalist Philip Boucher-Hayes was telling the truth about an encounter in December 2013 he had with Mr Callinan and that the former commissioner and Supt Taylor were not telling the truth.

During this encounter, the journalist alleged Mr Callinan told him Sgt McCabe had "psychiatric issues" and had been involved in "the worst possible kind of things".

The judge found the evidence of Fine Gael TD John Deasy was also correct.

Mr Deasy told the tribunal Mr Callinan told him Sgt McCabe was "not to be believed or trusted with anything".

Mr Callinan had disputed the accounts given by the two TDs, Mr McCarthy and Mr Boucher-Hayes.

A protected disclosure from Supt Taylor formed the basis of much of what the tribunal investigated over the past year.

In it, Supt Taylor alleged he was instructed or directed by Mr Callinan and Ms O’Sullivan to negatively brief members of the media about Sgt McCabe.

In particular, he claimed he was told to brief that Sgt McCabe was motivated by malice and revenge, driven by agendas, and that his complaints had been investigated and found to be without substance.

The tribunal also investigated the allegation made by Supt Taylor that he was directed to draw journalists’ attention to an allegation of child sexual assault, made by a woman known as Ms D, against Sgt McCabe, a matter which was fully investigated with the DPP concluding in 2007 that no offence was described.

It was alleged Supt Taylor told journalists this was the root cause of his agenda, namely revenge against the gardaí.

In his findings, Mr Justice Charleton said there was "no credible evidence" Ms O’Sullivan had any part in the campaign against Sgt McCabe.

He also said the truth was that Supt Taylor "completely understated his own involvement in a campaign of calumny" against Sgt McCabe.

The judge said Supt Taylor claimed, for the first time, while giving evidence to the tribunal that he was acting under orders.

"That was not the case. The tribunal is convinced that he pursued a scheme that somehow evolved out of his cheek-by-jowl working relationship with commissioner Callinan," he said.

"Supt David Taylor supplied a list of nine journalists to the tribunal whom he claimed were negatively briefed by him against Maurice McCabe.

"The tribunal is not convinced that any of those journalists were ever egged on in publishing negative stories about Maurice McCabe or even in thinking less of him.

"The two journalists not named among those nine, Debbie McCann and Eavan Murray, were, however, like Cathal McMahon, another journalist nominated by Supt David Taylor in the dying days of evidence before the tribunal, encouraged to seek out Ms D and to publish a negative story about Maurice McCabe in relation to her allegation."

The tribunal also examined whether Ms O’Sullivan influenced or attempted to influence broadcasts on RTÉ in May 2016 of the leaked findings of the O’Higgins Commission.

This commission examined concerns raised by the Sgt McCabe about policing in the Cavan/Monaghan district.

Mr Justice Charleton found that the reporter involved, RTÉ crime correspondent Paul Reynolds was not acting on the directions of anyone at Garda Headquarters.

"What Paul Reynolds did was honest.

"He was not under the directions of Garda Headquarters and he went about his job as an intelligent and independent reporter. In no sense was he a tool of the higher echelons of Garda Headquarters," the judge found.

Mr Justice Charleton said there could be no criticism of a reference in Mr Reynolds’ report to an untruth told by Sgt McCabe to the O’Higgins Commission.

He also found that a reference in one of his terms of reference, to Sgt McCabe being branded irresponsible, was inaccurate.

In the report, Mr Justice Charleton said Sgt McCabe was "a genuine person who at all times has had the interests of the people of Ireland uppermost in his mind".

The judge said Sgt McCabe had "done the State considerable service" in bringing matters within the force to the attention of the wider public.

"He has done so not out of a desire to inflate his public profile, but out of a legitimate drive to ensure that the national police force serves the people through hard work and diligence," the judge said.

"He is an exemplar of that kind of attitude. Notwithstanding everything that happened to him, he remains an officer of exemplary character and has shown himself in giving evidence to the tribunal as being a person of admirable fortitude."

Also probed by the tribunal was whether the false allegations of sexual abuse or any other unjustified grounds were inappropriately relied upon by the then-commissioner O’Sullivan to discredit Sgt McCabe at the O’Higgins Commission, which examined concerns raised by the whistleblower about policing in the Cavan/Monaghan district.

Mr Justice Charleton accepted the evidence of Ms O'Sullivan's legal team that she never suggested that Sgt McCabe's integrity be challenged.

The judge found selected leaked transcripts from the commission "created a truly unfortunate impression and a rush to judgement in the public mind".

He said the tribunal had not been asked to investigate their source and was passing no comment on this issue.

The judge also accepted evidence of former Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald that she had not wished to interfere in the commission.

The tribunal heard how correspondence was forwarded to Ms Fitzgerald informing her of the approach taken by the garda legal team.

But Ms Fitzgerald said she would have "noted" the email, but felt it "would have been completely inappropriate" for her as a minister to interfere.

"Was this wrong? The tribunal accepts this evidence is an honest appraisal of the situation.

"It was not a lazy dodging of the issues but rather a considered response to the information," said Mr Justice Charleton.

The tribunal also investigated the creation, distribution and use by Tusla of a file containing false allegations of sexual abuse against Sgt McCabe that was sent to gardaí in 2013, and whether these false allegations were knowingly used by senior members of the force to discredit him.

Mr Justice Charleton strongly criticised Tusla, the child and family agency, for its handling of the false rape claim.

In the report, he said the tribunal received the Tusla file, but discovered it had been “earlier filleted so that the full extent of the inefficiencies in Cavan/Monaghan Tusla would not be made known to the Sexual Abuse Regional Team based in Dublin who had been transferred the file in 2016”.

The judge said the false report “had an afterlife within Tusla”.

“This was not due to any action by gardaí, but was because of the astounding inefficiency of that organisation and the inertia of its management in Cavan/Monaghan,” the judge said.

“In due course, and very probably because of the media attention surrounding Maurice McCabe, in April 2014 the file was taken from the filing cabinet in which it was stored.

“The mistake was discovered almost immediately but that was because Ms D, when she came to know of the rape offence allegation against Maurice McCabe, protested that she had never claimed any such thing.

“That should have resulted in an immediate and definitive correction within Tusla, but it did not.”

Mr Justice Charleton said that while certain gardaí knew of this mixing up of the Ms D allegation with that of another more serious one made by a woman known as Ms Y, there was nonetheless an expectation, on a legitimate basis, that Tusla ought to be competent enough not to follow through on an obvious error.

“An inaccurate report of a rape offence was sent to the assistant commissioner of the Northern Region. That report was later corrected,” the judge said.

“Garda Headquarters was immediately informed of the false report as if it had been true. When the report to the Northern Region was explicitly corrected and the error explained, the incorrect report to Garda Headquarters was never uncorrected.

“While others were informed, and incorrectly informed, Maurice McCabe was never contacted and told that these mistakes had been made.”

Tusla has responded this afternoon to the publication of the report.

"At the outset, we wish to reiterate our sincere apology to Sergeant McCabe and each member of his family for the impact Tusla’s errors had on them," it said in a statement.

"Tusla is sincerely sorry that its standards did not meet those which could be reasonably expected by Sergeant McCabe and his family.

"Additionally, Tusla also wishes to apologise to others who were affected by the errors that were made.

"Tusla will now study the findings in detail to enhance our current programme of reform and improvement, where possible."

The new Garda Commissioner, Drew Harris, has also released a statement on the findings by Mr Justice Charleton

"An Garda Síochána fully accepts the findings of Mr Justice Charleton.

"Mr Justice Charleton’s Report makes for difficult reading for the organisation, but it is vital that we take it as an opportunity to change how we operate so we provide a professional and ethical service to the public.

"I fully agree with Mr Justice Charleton when he states that the obligation for members of An Garda Síochána is to the truth, society and the vulnerable, and not to the organisation.

"Given the significance and scale of the Report, I will be establishing a group to examine Mr Justice Charleton’s findings from policy, process, discipline and cultural perspectives to identify the lessons to be learnt and changes to be made.

"I welcome and support Mr Justice Charleton’s comments about Sergeant McCabe. I acknowledge the difficult time he and his family have endured and I hope this chapter is drawing to a close. I will ensure Sergeant McCabe and all Garda personnel referenced in the report receive appropriate supports.

"I will ensure An Garda Síochána is a safe environment for people to raise issues or concerns. The organisation will improve by having an open and inclusive culture.

"At this stage, it would not be appropriate for me to comment on individual Garda personnel in relation to specific concerns raised by Mr. Justice Charleton.”

Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan released a statement on Thursday afternoon which said that the tribunal's investigation "goes to the heart of how An Garda Síochána handle allegations of wrongdoing within the force". 

"It is imperative that the general public, whom the Gardaí serve, have confidence in the Garda Síochána and that any suspicion of wrongdoing is properly and fully investigated.

"I want to highlight one important point made by Mr Justice Charleton in relation to Sergeant Maurice McCabe where he states that, in bringing to attention the serious state of lack of application to duty and failure to follow basic and fundamental procedures, that Sgt McCabe has done the State considerable service.  His actions arose out of a legitimate drive to ensure that An Garda Síochána serves the people through hard work and diligence.  Not only do I accept that description of Sgt McCabe but I fully endorse it."

"The expert Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland has just completed a root and branch analysis of policing in Ireland. The implementation of its report will be fundamental to the transformation of An Garda Síochána. I will bring an implementation plan to Cabinet this term, taking careful account of the conclusions of Mr Justice Charleton," he added.

Former Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald welcomed the publication of the report, as she thanked Justice Charleton for his work, as well as Taoiseach Leo Varadakar for his support.

"On a personal level I am pleased that I have been found to have acted appropriately, used my judgement well, and that my evidence has been accepted as truthful.” Ms Fitzgerald said this afternoon.

"I established the Tribunal to find the truth about very disturbing information given to me when I was Minister for Justice & Equality, and am pleased that it is proving effective in the quest for the truth in these complex matters.

"There are many lessons to be drawn from the Report, which requires thorough and careful reading," she said.

More to follow

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