Tuesday 14 August 2018

Varadkar told of 'innuendo and rumours' about McCabe

Fine Gael TD John Deasy, left, and Seamus McCarthy, Comptroller & Auditor General, leaving the Disclosures Tribunal in Dublin Castle. Mr McCarthy is expected to give evidence today. Photo: Stephen Collins/Collins Photos
Fine Gael TD John Deasy, left, and Seamus McCarthy, Comptroller & Auditor General, leaving the Disclosures Tribunal in Dublin Castle. Mr McCarthy is expected to give evidence today. Photo: Stephen Collins/Collins Photos
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has told the Disclosures Tribunal he was informed by a road safety chief that "innuendo and rumours" were circulating about Sergeant Maurice McCabe.

In a letter, Mr Varadkar told the tribunal he learned of the issue from then Road Safety Authority chief executive Noel Brett. Former Labour Party leader Pat Rabbitte has also informed the tribunal he was told of rumours about the Garda whistleblower.

The tribunal is investigating whether a campaign existed at the highest levels of the Garda force to discredit Sgt McCabe by spreading false sex abuse slurs.

Details of letters to the tribunal from the two politicians were outlined by Darren Lehane BL, who is representing Fianna Fáil TD John McGuinness.

The former Public Accounts Committee (PAC) chairman alleges ex-Garda commissioner Martin Callinan told him Sgt McCabe had abused his family.

The claim is denied by Mr Callinan.

TD John McGuinness. Photo: Stephen Collins/Collins Photos
TD John McGuinness. Photo: Stephen Collins/Collins Photos

Mr McGuinness said yesterday he wasn't aware of the letters until they were brought to his attention.

But he said false rumours had circulated in the Oireachtas about Sgt McCabe.

"This was a thick, heavy mist that hung over Leinster House for some time," he said.

In his letter, Mr Varadkar said that when he was transport minister he was told of the "innuendo and rumours" by Mr Brett. "I don't recall the exact detail of the rumours, but I do recall they related to his character and motivation, that he was untrustworthy and had other grievances unrelated to road safety," said Mr Varadkar.

Sgt Maurice McCabe. Photo: Stephen Collins/Collins Photos
Sgt Maurice McCabe. Photo: Stephen Collins/Collins Photos

The Taoiseach said he specifically recalled a rumour that a computer with evidence of criminality on it had been lost by Sgt McCabe. The tribunal has heard Sgt McCabe was innocent of any wrongdoing in relation to the matter. It is unclear if Mr Varadkar will be called to testify, but Mr Brett is due to give evidence.

The tribunal heard Mr Rabbitte alleges he was told by a former garda in 2014 that he should be aware of what was being said "on the grapevine" about Sgt McCabe. He took this to be "rumours of alleged child abuse" against Sgt McCabe.

Mr Rabbitte will give evidence next week.

Yesterday, another TD, Fine Gael's John Deasy, gave evidence about remarks he says Mr Callinan made to him minutes before the then commissioner was due to give evidence to the PAC about the penalty points controversy in January 2014.

Mr Deasy said that during a brief conversation in a Leinster House coffee dock, Mr Callinan "referred to Sgt McCabe as being someone who could not be believed or trusted".

The TD said the only person he could remember being in the vicinity was then deputy commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan, but he doubted she overheard the conversation. He said he thought Mr Callinan had been trying to influence him adversely in relation to Sgt McCabe.

At the time the PAC was considering whether to call the whistleblower to give evidence about penalty points system abuses he had uncovered.

Mr Callinan has denied making the comments. "I certainly did not say that Sgt McCabe could not be believed," he said in a statement to the tribunal.

Mr Callinan claims he indicated to Mr Deasy that the PAC needed to be mindful that not all of the allegations Sgt McCabe was making were correct.

He also claims he told Mr Deasy he had written to the PAC outlining his views on whistleblowers appearing before it.

However, Mr Deasy said he could not remember Mr Callinan saying these things.

The tribunal also heard about texts exchanged between Mr Callinan and then Department of Justice secretary general Brian Purcell in January 2014, around the time Mr Callinan appeared at the PAC and was trying to persuade Mr McGuinness not to also call Sgt McCabe.

A text from Mr Purcell on January 22, the day before Mr Callinan's PAC appearance, said a committee official had confirmed to him "the whistleblowers will not be there tomorrow". After that meeting, Mr Purcell texted Mr Callinan, saying: "Well done, exceptional performance under fire. Brian".

The following day Mr Purcell texted: "Can u call me if possible, just wondering how you got on with JMcG. Brian".

Mr McGuinness said the texts indicated there was "an interesting relationship" between Mr Purcell and Mr Callinan.

"I find this exchange of texts unusual," said Mr McGuinness.

Irish Independent

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