Monday 24 June 2019

RTÉ denies O'Sullivan influenced broadcasts on O'Higgins report

Former An Garda Síochána commissioner Noírín O’Sullivan
Former An Garda Síochána commissioner Noírín O’Sullivan
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

A barrister representing RTÉ has said broadcasts based on the then-unpublished O'Higgins Commission report were not influenced by former Garda Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan.

The Disclosures Tribunal is investigating whether Ms O'Sullivan, using briefing material prepared in Garda Headquarters, influenced or attempted to influence broadcasts on May 9, 2016 in which Sgt Maurice McCabe was branded a liar and irresponsible.

Sean Gillane SC told Mr Justice Peter Charleton this proposition was rejected by RTÉ.

The barrister examined Sgt McCabe in relation to his knowledge of broadcasts on various RTÉ programmes that day.

Sgt McCabe said he had heard one broadcast, an item on 'Morning Ireland' at 8.20am, but his wife had listened to others.

He agreed he was concerned or upset about the use of the word "lie" during the broadcast, which he described as "awful".

Mr Gillane pointed out the broadcast had gone through each and every incident in respect of which Sgt McCabe had made complaints, with the exception of one chapter. The barrister said RTÉ crime correspondent Paul Reynolds explicitly reported that Sgt McCabe was "quite correct" in relation to his complaint about the handling of an incident on a bus.

Similarly, Mr Reynolds said Sgt McCabe "correctly examined deficiencies" and had been commended for "diligence and duty" in relation to other complaints. He also reported Sgt McCabe was "quite rightly exonerated" in another case involving a missing computer.

The barrister gave further examples from broadcasts later that day in which Mr Reynolds and other journalists quoted positive findings about Sgt McCabe.

Mr Gillane said that when the word "lie" was used, it was in connection with a passage relating to an assault.

He said: "But again, just in relation to that, in the context of the programme, Mr Reynolds said in that context that you were quite right to be suspicious of the withdrawal of the complaint in that case. And also, in the context of describing it as a lie, Mr Reynolds explicitly referred to your concern as genuine and commendable and then quoted in the same sentence Judge O'Higgins's terminology, which I think was the use of the word untruth."

Sgt McCabe said he thought it was "a nasty article" and his heart was sinking when he heard it. The tribunal heard he rang to complain and told a news editor to expect a solicitor's letter after the editor said RTÉ was standing over the broadcast.

Irish Independent

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