Wednesday 19 June 2019

'Strange' for Callinan to draft letter for Kean, tribunal told

Former Garda commissioner Martin Callinan. Photo: Tom Burke
Former Garda commissioner Martin Callinan. Photo: Tom Burke

Gerard Cunningham

It was "strange" for former Garda commissioner Martin Callinan to draft a response for Gerald Kean after whistleblower Sergeant Maurice McCabe complained about defamatory comments the solicitor made on an RTÉ programme, the Charleton tribunal has heard.

The tribunal is examining allegations that senior gardaí were smearing the whistleblower to politicians, journalists and others.

Det Supt Frank Walsh, who worked as private secretary to the commissioner, met with Mr Kean on February 12, 2014, two weeks after Mr Kean criticised Sgt McCabe on the 'Marian Finucane Show' on RTÉ.

Det Supt Walsh said he had "a good professional working relationship" with Mr Callinan, and that the commissioner was a hard worker. He told the tribunal Mr Callinan would arrive in the office daily from around 7am and work until late in the evening.

The tribunal also heard that the letter from Mr Kean, which enclosed a copy of the complaint from Sgt McCabe, along with handwritten and typed copies of a draft response prepared by Mr Callinan, were not added to the file on Sgt McCabe kept at Garda HQ.

Det Supt Walsh met with Mr Kean and conveyed the draft response to him, and four paragraphs from the draft were included in the reply which Mr Kean sent to Sgt McCabe, the tribunal was told.

Gerald Kean. Photo: Justin Farrelly
Gerald Kean. Photo: Justin Farrelly

No letter was sent by post to Mr Kean.

"Somebody looking at this might think it was a matter that was being swept under the carpet so nobody could see what happened," tribunal barrister Patrick Marrinan SC said.

Det Supt Walsh said this was not the case.

He also said he was not aware that Mr Kean and Mr Callinan had spoken before the solicitor appeared on the 'Marian Finucance Show'.

The programme aired shortly after Mr Callinan had appeared before the Dáil Public Accounts Committee to answer questions about the cancellation of penalty points.

Tribunal chairman Mr Justice Peter Charleton said it was "really, really, really strange" that the commissioner would prepare a draft letter in a private matter between two citizens.

Det Supt Walsh said Mr Callinan expressed his view that the matter was inappropriate for him to reply to, but was anxious to do something for Mr Kean, who was supportive of An Garda Síochána.

Det Supt Walsh said his meeting with Mr Kean was not "clandestine", and the fact the letters were before the tribunal showed there was no attempt to hide them.

"The fact it is before us today shows it was never meant to be covert," Det Supt Walsh said.

The tribunal chairman said: "The commissioner never told us. You never told us. Mr Kean never told us.

"It took counsel rooting through tens of thousands of documents to find it."

"The documents were kept in the commissioner's office but I don't know which file they were on," Det Supt Walsh said.

The tribunal has adjourned and will resume on April 30.

Irish Independent

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