Monday 25 June 2018

Nóirín O'Sullivan: Callinan didn't discuss McCabe allegation with me

Former Garda Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan
Former Garda Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan
Former Garda Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan Photo: (Niall Carson/PA)
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

Former Garda commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan has said her predecessor Martin Callinan never discussed a sexual assault allegation against whistleblower Maurice McCabe with her.

Ms O’Sullivan also told the Disclosures Tribunal she had no recollection of the allegation, made by a woman known as Ms D, being discussed prior to a Dáil Public Accounts Committee meeting in January 2014.

Neither had she any recollection of reading a letter from then assistant commissioner Kieran Kenny in May 2014 which outlined details of a Tusla referral, containing an incorrect version of the sexual assault allegation.

Nor could she recall hearing about the allegation in 2013, at a time other witnesses have said it was being widely discussed in Garda headquarters.

“Nobody ever spoke to me in relation to it,” she said.

Ms O’Sullivan was answering questions during her second appearance at the tribunal.

Among other matters, tribunal chairman Mr Justice Peter Charleton is investigating allegations by former Garda press officer Supt Dave Taylor that he was directed by Mr Callinan to negatively brief journalists about Sgt McCabe.

He also alleges Ms O’Sullivan, who was Mr Callinan’s deputy, was aware of the smear campaign. She has denied this.

Sgt McCabe was the subject of a Garda investigation after Ms D made allegations in 2006 that she had been sexually assaulted by him as a child years earlier.

He was cleared the following year when the Director of Public Prosecutions found the events described would not constitute a crime.

Ms O’Sullivan was questioned at length by tribunal counsel Kathleen Leader BL about a number of meetings held in Garda headquarters in January 2014, ahead of an appearance by Mr Callinan at the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

Mr Callinan was due to answer questions from TDs about penalty point system abuses highlighted by Sgt McCabe.

The tribunal has heard how notes from some of those pre-PAC meetings, made by former Assistant Commissioner Jack Nolan and Garda director of communications Andrew McLindon, indicate the 2006 allegation against Sgt McCabe was discussed.

Ms O’Sullivan told Ms Leader that Sgt McCabe’s name would have come up in the context of the issues he was raising, but the discussion was not about Sgt McCabe personally.

She said she had “no recollection” of the Ms D issue being raised in her presence.

Pressed on this by Ms Leader, she said there were occasions when she would be late getting to meetings or would have had to step out of meetings.

Ms O’Sullivan said she had been aware of the Ms D allegation in 2008, as it was referenced in a report she received at the time in her capacity as assistant commissioner for human resources.

But she insisted she only became aware of it again when the O’Higgins Commission began in May 2015. This was a commission which examined concerns raised by Sgt McCabe about policing matters in the Cavan/Monaghan division.

Ms Leader said two journalists, Debbie McCann and Eavan Murray, had separately called to Ms D’s home in late February 2014.

She said Alison O’Reilly, a journalist with the Irish Daily Mail, had alleged her colleague, Ms McCann, told her that Ms O’Sullivan had provided information about Ms D.

Ms O’Sullivan said she was aware of the allegation and denied it.

She said she knew the journalist’s father, a retired former senior Garda, John McCann.

But the first time she met her was at a book launch in mid-November 2014. Prior to that she had rebuffed a number of interview requests from Ms McCann.

Well-known crime journalist Paul Williams of the Irish Independent also visited Ms D’s home, and ran a number of stories in April and May 2014 about her dissatisfaction with the Garda investigation into her allegations against Sgt McCabe.

The articles did not name Sgt McCabe.

Supt Taylor has claimed that Mr Williams contacted him while at the D household on Saturday, March 8 2014. The superintendent also claims he texted Ms O’Sullivan that evening to let her know Mr Williams had conducted an interview and that she had called him back to discuss the matter.

The tribunal was shown phone records, which show there is no record of Mr Williams phoning Supt Taylor that day.

There was, however, a four minute phone conversation between Ms O’Sullivan and Supt Taylor that evening.

Ms O’Sullivan said she could not recollect what was discussed but said it may have been an operational matter, perhaps some incident that was happening, or some query from a Sunday newspaper.

“He was not talking to me about anything to do with Mr Williams and Ms D at any stage,” she said.

Ms O’Sullivan said she “vaguely” remembers seeing Mr Williams’ first article. She didn’t know at the time it related to Sgt McCabe, but became aware later.

The tribunal was shown a list of phone and text contacts between Ms O’Sullivan and Mr Williams during 2013 and 2014.

These included a record of a text being sent by her to Mr Williams on April 12, 2014, the day the first Ms D article appeared.

Ms O’Sullivan said she could not recall what the text was about, but that she certainly hadn’t texted him about the article.

She said a lot of her contact with Mr Williams had been in relation to security arrangements for the journalist.

Ms Leader asked Ms O’Sullivan about a letter to her office from Assistant Commissioner Kieran Kenny on May 16, 2014 about a referral made to gardaí by Tusla of a sexual allegation against Sgt McCabe.

The referral erroneously referred to a much more serious allegation than the one made by Ms D.

A letter from now retired Chief Supt James Sheridan was attached saying the matters were previously investigated and resulted in the DPP directing there be no charges.

The tribunal heard that Ms O’Sullivan’s private secretary, Supt Frank Walsh, responded to the assistant commissioner, saying the content of the letter had been noted by Ms O’Sullivan.

However, Ms O’Sullivan told Ms Leader said she did not recall the letter being brought to her attention.

“I don’t have any recollection of seeing or reading it,” she said.

Ms O’Sullivan said the first line of the response from Supt Walsh to Assistant Commissioner Kenny was pro-forma response.

Ms Leader said it was “slightly incredible” that the letter had not immediately jumped out at her, coming as it did in the aftermath of the Williams articles.

She asked Ms O’Sullivan if she had made a decision to “park” the Tusla notification.

Ms O’Sullivan denied this was the case.

“If I had seen it I would have directed a different action, to contact the HSE and make sure the matter was clarified immediately,” she said.

She acknowledged she and Assistant Commissioner Kenny met Sgt McCabe on August 7, 2014, but said the notification never came up.

“Assistant Commissioner Kenny never mentioned it to me, chairman. It wasn’t discussed between us at all,” she said.

“And I didn’t discuss it with him as I wasn’t aware of it.”

Ms O’Sullivan also said Mr Callinan never discussed the Ms D allegation with her.

Ms Leader asked Ms O’Sullivan about broadcasts by RTÉ crime correspondent Paul Reynolds on May 9, 2016, based on a leak of the findings of the O’Higgins Commission report, which had yet to be published.

One of the tribunal’s terms of reference is to investigate whether Ms O’Sullivan, using briefing material prepared in Garda headquarters, influenced or attempted to influence the broadcasts.

Ms O’Sullivan said she never discussed the matter with Mr Reynolds and had not given him a copy of the report.

She said she had never sought to influence RTÉ's coverage in relation to the O’Higgins Commission or any other matter.

The tribunal was shown records of a number of texts between the journalist and Ms O’Sullivan.

It heard Mr Reynolds’ texts were redacted as he had claimed a form of privilege, but Ms O’Sullivan had been given an unredacted copy of the records.

She said the texts did not relate to matters covered by the tribunal’s terms of reference.

Earlier, Ms O’Sullivan said she was “surprised” by the appointment by Mr Callinan of Supt Taylor as press officer in 2012.

She said she would have had a different criteria for choosing a press officer, but it was Mr Callinan’s decision.

Ms O’Sullivan said Supt Taylor’s background was in liaison protection and he wouldn’t have had experience of dealing with crime scenes or dealing with the public.

Within months of becoming acting commissioner, following Mr Callinan’s resignation in March 2014, she transferred Supt Taylor out of the press office to the Garda traffic bureau.

Asked by Mr Justice Charleton why she had moved Supt Taylor, she replied: “I did not trust Supt Taylor. I did not feel comfortable in his company.”

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