Wednesday 19 June 2019

Rabbitte and former driver clash at tribunal over McCabe remarks

Former TD Pat Rabbitte Photos: Gareth Chaney
Former TD Pat Rabbitte Photos: Gareth Chaney
John Kennedy at the Disclosures Tribunal in Dublin Castle. Photo: Gareth Chaney
Brian Purcell at the Disclosures Tribunal in Dublin Castle. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Maurice McCabe pictured at the Disclosures Tribunal in Dublin Castle. Picture: Collins

Cormac McQuinn and John Downing

There was a stark clash in testimony between Pat Rabbitte and his former ministerial driver at the Disclosures Tribunal.

The ex-Labour minister alleged that the driver, retired Garda John Kennedy, warned him about sex abuse rumours being circulated about whistleblower Sergeant Maurice McCabe.

Mr Kennedy denied he had ever made such a warning and said the claim that he did has "upset me and my family".

The conflicting evidence came at the Disclosures Tribunal, which is probing claims that senior gardaí conducted a smear campaign against Sgt McCabe.

Mr Rabbitte was in contact with Sgt McCabe in 2007 when the garda was raising concerns about policing in the Cavan/Monaghan division.

The former TD said he helped Sgt McCabe "insofar as I could" and he was persuaded of his honesty.

He told the tribunal how he attested to Sgt McCabe's good character during a February 2014 RTÉ Radio interview.

He claimed that afterwards Mr Kennedy collected him and warned him that he may be "wading into a controversy".

He said Mr Kennedy had told him that "the rumour on the grape vine is he [Sgt McCabe] might not be a man of the character I said he was… that his own colleagues believed he couldn't be trusted with children".

It was put to Mr Rabbitte that this conflicts with Mr Kennedy's denial that he made the warning. Mr Rabbitte replied that he thinks this was "a difficulty with Mr Kennedy's memory".

Appearing later, Mr Kennedy told how after 35 years as a garda he retired in 2006.

He joined the Labour Party and got the job as Mr Rabbitte's ministerial driver in 2011.

Mr Kennedy insisted he never made the allegations in relation to Sgt McCabe that had been attributed to him by Mr Rabbitte.

The driver said he didn't have enough contact with gardaí in the years since his retirement to be aware of what was talked about inside the force.

Mr Kennedy said he would never make an allegation of child sex abuse about someone except via the proper channels.

Mr Kennedy added he found the prospect of such allegations "grotesque" and "horrible". "I certainly would not say it," he added.

He said he was aware in a general way of the controversy surrounding Sgt McCabe from media reports, but he had respect for the man as he was himself a former Garda Representative Association activist.

At the conclusion of his evidence, tribunal chairman Mr Justice Peter Charleton said he would have to reflect on the clash in testimony between the pair.

Separately former secretary general of the Department of Justice Brian Purcell denied knowledge of any alleged smear campaign being conducted against Sgt McCabe.

He was asked about a text message he sent to former commissioner Martin Callinan shortly after the senior garda's 2014 appearance at the Dáil's Public Accounts Committee, where he called the actions of whistleblowers "disgusting".

The text read: "Well done exceptional performance under fire." Mr Purcell said he wouldn't have watched the entire five-hour long PAC meeting and can't remember when he heard about the "disgusting" remark. He said his message to Mr Callinan was "just an expression of solidarity".

Former PAC member Minister Eoghan Murphy said there had been a view in Leinster House that two Garda whistleblowers raising concern about the penalty points system were "odd". But he said he wasn't aware of the false rumours of sex abuse relating to Sgt McCabe until they entered the public domain.

Irish Independent

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