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Friday 19 October 2018

My conscience is clear: senior counsel who challenged garda

'The Charleton Tribunal is now examining whether unjustified grounds were inappropriately relied on by the former commissioner to discredit Sgt McCabe at the O'Higgins Commission' (stock photo)
'The Charleton Tribunal is now examining whether unjustified grounds were inappropriately relied on by the former commissioner to discredit Sgt McCabe at the O'Higgins Commission' (stock photo)

Gerard Cunningham

A senior barrister who challenged Garda whistleblower Maurice McCabe at a commission of investigation has said his "conscience is clear".

Colm Smyth SC had represented former Garda commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan and certain senior officers at the 2015 O'Higgins Commission.

The Charleton Tribunal is now examining whether unjustified grounds were inappropriately relied on by the former commissioner to discredit Sgt McCabe at the O'Higgins Commission.

Yesterday, Mr Smyth was cross-examined by Michael McDowell SC, who asked whether it was wrong to question Sgt McCabe's motivation and credibility.

"I had a duty to defend the interests of my client, regardless of the consequences for myself. You are bound by the same duty," Mr Smyth said.

He said that if asked would he do it again, he would. "My conscience will remain clear."

Mr Smyth said he did not like "military terms" such as "assault" and "assail" to describe his questions at the commission, as the media would report he had attacked Sgt McCabe. He said he had "probed" the sergeant's evidence.

Mr Smyth said he put the case he was asked to by the Garda Commissioner, who asked him to test the truth of Sgt McCabe's allegations.

Mr Smyth said he hoped he was "in no way rude or unpleasant to Sgt McCabe".

He said sometimes people got "caught up in the drama of the moment" and, in those circumstances, Judge O'Higgins as the referee would be expected to step in and "give a rap on the knuckles".

But Mr Smyth said he did not ever recall getting a rap on the knuckles.

"I will accept that there were a number of occasions where Sgt McCabe became visibly upset, but I will not accept it was anything I said.

"It was never my intention to cause upset to him by any question," he added.

Mr McDowell said that the Byrne-McGinn report of an internal Garda inquiry had provided a framework and should be seen by his client.

In an introduction giving background information, Sgt McCabe was described as having "a level of paranoia".

Mr Smyth said he never saw the Byrne-McGinn report, and considered it history. He said he was dealing with a more recent report by Seán Guerin SC.

Irish Independent

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