Sunday 15 December 2019

Solicitor said O’Sullivan strategy on McCabe was ‘political dynamite’

Maurice McCabe
Maurice McCabe
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

A solicitor who represented Nóirín O’Sullivan at the O’Higgins Commission described her client’s controversial strategy to attack the motivation and credibility of whistleblower Maurice McCabe as “political dynamite”.

Annmarie Ryan of the Chief State Solicitor’s Office expressed the view during a conversation with a garda chief superintendent who was relaying the legal instructions of the then Garda Commissioner.

Ms Ryan told the Disclosures Tribunal that despite the fact she was representing the then commissioner, she never had a consultation, either face to face or over the phone, with her at the time.

Instead instructions were relayed by Chief Superintendent Fergus Healy, who was liaising with the commissioner.

Ms Ryan said she was “not happy” that she had not been instructed directly as the issue was “highly political and highly sensitive”.

“I would have preferred to have dealt directly with the commissioner in relation to the matter,” she said.

Ms Ryan said she was told the commissioner was “very busy” and could not meet at the time.

The tribunal is examining whether false allegations of sexual abuse or any other unjustified grounds were inappropriately relied upon by Ms O’Sullivan to discredit Sgt McCabe at O’Higgins, which was probing allegations made by Sgt McCabe of malpractice in the Cavan/Monaghan garda division.

Ms O’Sullivan instructed her legal team to question Sgt McCabe’s motivation and credibility.

The tribunal has heard a number of senior gardaí believed Sgt McCabe developed a grievance after superiors refused to release the full DPP findings in relation to a dismissed sexual assault allegation against him.

Under cross examination by Michael McDowell SC, counsel for Sgt McCabe, Ms Ryan said it was not a case of her being unhappy with the legal strategy, but being unhappy that she was not briefed directly by the commissioner.

But Ms Ryan said that when she became aware of the commissioner’s instructions she could “see trouble brewing”.

The tribunal heard that after a row arose over the legal strategy at the second day of the commission’s hearings, May 15, 2015 Mr Justice Kevin O’Higgins adjourned proceedings to allow Ms O’Sullivan’s counsel Colm Smyth SC confirm his instructions from the commissioner.

Ms Ryan said this confirmation was received via Chief Superintendent Fergus Healy, who had a number of phone conversations with the commissioner.

She knew Ms O’Sullivan had consulted with the Department of Justice on the matter, but did not know who with, although she speculated in a note she took that “perhaps the minister” was spoken to.

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