Monday 23 April 2018

McGuinness asked why he waited years to make claims about former Garda chief

Former chair of the PAC John McGuinness Photo: Tom Burke
Former chair of the PAC John McGuinness Photo: Tom Burke
John Downing

John Downing

Fianna Fáil TD John McGuinness is under pressure to explain why he waited for more than two years to make claims about a private conversation he had with former Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan.

Mr McGuinness's Fianna Fáil colleagues expressed "dismay" at his new allegations against the former commissioner, and especially at his timing.

Sinn Féin TD Pearse Doherty also questioned Mr McGuinness's judgment in meeting with Mr Callinan and then remaining silent until well after a special inquiry reported.

The Kilkenny TD yesterday repeated allegations he originally made in the Dáil.

He has said that when he was the chair of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), the then Garda Commissioner Mr Callinan warned him in a private meeting in a car park that whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe "was not to be trusted and there were serious issues about him".

Mr McGuinness said the meeting took place in January 2014, around the time that Mr Callinan controversially told a PAC hearing that he personally viewed two whistleblowers' actions as "disgusting".

The TD called on the former commissioner and his successor, Nóirín O'Sullivan, to clarify any efforts that were made to discredit Sgt McCabe.

Mr Callinan was opposed to Sgt McCabe being heard by the PAC. It is now alleged that part of that opposition led to the then garda chief seeking a meeting with Mr McGuinness, who has now set out his account.

"The Garda Commissioner confided in me in a car park on the Naas Road that Gda McCabe was not to be trusted and there were serious issues about him," he told the Dáil on Thursday.

"The vile stories that circulated about Gda McCabe, which were promoted by senior officers in An Garda Síochána, were absolutely appalling."

Mr McGuinness told the Dáil this during the debate on the O'Higgins commission of investigation, which examined Sgt McCabe's allegations of garda wrongdoing in the Cavan-Monaghan division.

Fianna Fáil justice spokesman Jim O'Callaghan could not be contacted for comment, but other TDs, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said they were unhappy with Mr McGuinness's actions.

"I presume any such meeting was supposed to be confidential between Commissioner Callinan and John McGuinness. Why did he not respect that? And if not, why wait until long after the commission of inquiry to speak out?" one senior Fianna Fáil TD wanted to know.

Mr Doherty said the idea of such a meeting was "baffling", and he questioned Mr McGuinness's waiting until now to speak out.

"It was an error of judgment on Mr McGuinness's part, considering the seriousness of the matter," he told RTÉ.

In London to speak about the Brexit poll, Taoiseach Enda Kenny brushed aside questions about Mr McGuinness.

"I'm here to talk about Brexit and I haven't heard about the comments you refer to," Mr Kenny told reporters.

An Garda Síochána said it did not comment on third-party statements.

However, a garda source pointed to Ms O'Sullivan's recent comments about respect for whistleblowers generally and Sgt McCabe in particular.

A spokesman for Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald will ask the Policing Authority to examine how senior gardaí deal with whistleblowing.

Other sources said it was likely that Ms O'Sullivan would be asked about the issue before long.

Irish Independent

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Also in this section