Tuesday 25 September 2018

'I never called whistleblower a paedophile,' editor tells tribunal judge

Irish Independent Editor Fionnán Sheahan at the tribunal yesterday
Irish Independent Editor Fionnán Sheahan at the tribunal yesterday

Andrew Phelan

Irish Independent Editor Fionnán Sheahan denied telling a former 'Sunday Independent' editor that Garda whistleblower Maurice McCabe was a "paedophile", saying her allegations were born out of a "grudge".

Mr Sheahan said Anne Harris was "disgruntled" and "bitter" following her departure from Independent News & Media (INM), and what she claimed he had said was "at odds" with his actions at the time.

She had suggested he was trying to "warn her off" stories about Sgt McCabe, while his emails at the time showed he was advocating positive coverage, he told the Disclosures Tribunal.

The tribunal is investigating an alleged smear campaign by senior gardaí against Sgt McCabe.

Former Garda press officer Supt Dave Taylor claims to have negatively briefed 11 journalists about Sgt McCabe between mid-2013 and March 2014. Supt Taylor has said he was ordered to do so in mid-2013 by then Garda commissioner Martin Callinan and with the knowledge of then deputy commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan. They both deny his allegations.

The alleged briefing was that Sgt McCabe had been investigated over a historic allegation of child sexual assault.

While Sgt McCabe was investigated over a complaint made by a woman known as Ms D, the DPP decided in 2007 not to prosecute and what was described by her did not amount to a crime.

Mr Sheahan, who is not one of those Supt Taylor claims he briefed, told the tribunal: "I am only here today because Ms Harris made an allegation against me."

Ms Harris retired from INM in 2014. Mr Sheahan was INM's group political editor at the time of the alleged remarks.

Ms Harris had given evidence that following an editorial conference toward the end of September 2014, after a potential story about Sgt McCabe had been discussed, Mr Sheahan turned back into the office.

"He said, 'he's a paedophile. McCabe is a paedophile'. And I was shocked," she had said.

"I took that as an allegation that I was withholding information from this tribunal, which I regard as very serious," Mr Sheahan said.

Former Irish Independent editor Claire Grady said before the paper published an anonymous article about the allegations against Sgt McCabe in April 2014, she thought it was likely that a garda gave Ms D the number of journalist Paul Williams.

Part of her job was to be sceptical about stories and she was aware that allegations against Sgt McCabe were emerging against a background, she said.

The hearing continues.

Irish Independent

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News