Monday 9 December 2019

McCabe claim of fear culture in Garda 'credible' - HR chief

Sergeant Maurice McCabe. Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins
Sergeant Maurice McCabe. Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

A senior civilian member of Garda management has said claims by whistleblower Maurice McCabe that there is a culture of fear in An Garda Síochána are credible.

Human resources director John Barrett told the Disclosures Tribunal it is possible the assertion will be backed up by the results of a cultural audit of the force currently being conducted by PwC Ireland.

"I think that it is a credible position that he takes," said Mr Barrett, who was appointed to act as a "point of contact" with Sgt McCabe to help resolve difficulties he was experiencing in the workplace.

Notes of a meeting between them in February 2015 revealed Mr Barrett got the clear sense Sgt McCabe had to endure "a hostile work environment" in Mullingar, where he had been stationed since 2008.

Sgt McCabe felt it was "open season" on him after a comment made by then-Garda commissioner Martin Callinan at the Public Accounts Committee in January 2014. Mr Callinan described the actions of two Garda whistleblowers, one of whom was Sgt McCabe, as "disgusting".

The tribunal heard Sgt McCabe believed a number of gardaí in Mullingar felt they had support for their actions to "take it out on Maurice" following Mr Callinan's comment.

Garda HR chief John Barrett at the tribunal in Dublin Castle. Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins
Garda HR chief John Barrett at the tribunal in Dublin Castle. Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins

Sgt McCabe also told Mr Barrett that Mr Callinan's successor, Nóirín O'Sullivan, had "thrown him back to the wolves". He complained he was not being engaged with and matters he raised were ignored.

Mr Barrett was quizzed about an allegation he had made about a former civilian colleague, ex-Garda chief administration officer Cyril Dunne.

Last week, Mr Barrett claimed in evidence that Mr Dunne told him "we are going after" Sgt McCabe at the O'Higgins Commission. Mr Dunne strenuously denies the allegation and is due to give evidence about it tomorrow.

Mr Barrett said he and Mr Dunne also had a difference of opinion in relation to another matter - how the force investigated and dealt with financial irregularities at the Garda Training College. But he denied, under questioning from Michael McDowell SC, counsel for Sgt McCabe, that his allegation had been made as a result of a grudge against Mr Dunne. "I feel no animosity for Mr Dunne and that is a matter of fact," said Mr Barrett.

The Garda human resources director claimed Mr Dunne, who no longer works for the force, made the comment on May 13, 2015, the day before the commission began its hearings behind closed doors. Sgt McCabe's credibility and motivation for making complaints against senior officers was later challenged by Ms O'Sullivan's legal team at the commission.

Later, Supt Noel Cunningham, who signed a letter handed in to the commission, told the tribunal he had failed to spot a mistake in it. The letter was submitted by the legal team which represented Ms O'Sullivan, Supt Cunningham, and other senior gardaí.

It incorrectly alleged Sgt McCabe had told Supt Cunningham at a meeting that the only reason he made a complaint against another senior officer, Supt Michael Clancy, was to force him to circulate the DPP directions in the Ms D case. This was an investigation which cleared Sgt McCabe of an allegation of sexually assaulting the daughter of a colleague.

Tribunal counsel have suggested what was described amounted to "an almost blackmail situation going on".

Supt Cunningham told the tribunal that on the morning a printed-out copy of the letter was handed in to the tribunal he had not been given time to read it before signing it.

He had seen it on his phone, but missed the mistake.

"I am embarrassed by the mistake. Because I would usually be very careful in everything I do," he said. "I am embarrassed if it in any way caused any distress to Sgt McCabe.

"It was a mistake. Nothing more, nothing less."

Colm Smyth SC, who headed up the Garda legal team, previously told the tribunal the letter was drafted in accordance with instructions.

Irish Independent

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