Charleton Tribunal: Maurice McCabe bullied and called a "rat" on social media

Garda whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe was the subject of "hostility and enmity" within the gardai, the Charleton tribunal has heard, reports Gerard Cunningham.

Sgt McCabe’s barrister Michael McDowell said that while evidence had been given that garda witnesses never discussed Sgt McCabe, he was the subject of "a good deal of hostility and enmity from certain sources in the Cavan Monaghan division".

The tribunal was also told Sgt McCabe was bullied, and called a "rat" on social media, Mr McDowell said.

Retired Chief Supt James Sheridan said he had never undermined Sgt McCabe in any way but he did know Sgt McCabe was being bullied.

Retired Chief Superintendent James Sheridan at the The Disclosures Tribunal in Dublin Castle. Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins

Mr McDowell said the tribunal had been given a picture by some witnesses that there was no animus whatsoever to Sgt McCabe, and he was dealt with the same as any other guard. He said that he was trying to establish that this was not the case.

Mr Sheridan said that a HSE notification containing incorrect allegations of sexual abuse against Sgt McCabe was "a disastrous error", but he said it was caused by the HSE and was not the fault of the gardaí.

"In my view it would be grossly unfair to hold the Garda Siochana responsible for the catastrophe that was perpetrated by the HSE," Mr Sheridan said.

Mr Sheridan said he never spoke to Ms D or to her father Mr D, a garda officer, about the allegation Ms D had made in 2006, on which the DPP directed no prosecution.

Questioned by Micheál P O’Higgins on behalf of the garda commissioner, Mr Sheridan said that garda press officer Supt David Taylor played no role in the manner in which he dealt with notifications from the HSE and Tusla.

"Were you party to any conspiracy to sully or besmirch the reputation of Sgt Maurice McCabe," Mr O;’Higgins asked.

"Absolutely not," Mr Sheridan said. To his knowledge nobody in senior garda management was party to any such conspiracy, he said.

In other evidence the former senior garda denied that tasks were not followed up on after a high level meeting in order to keep allegations about Sgt McCabe alive.

Retired garda chief superintendent James Sheridan attended a meeting in July 2014 along with Bailieboro Supt Leo McGinn and assistant commissioner Kieran Kenny to discuss HSE notifications relating to Sgt McCabe.

The tribunal is looking into allegations of a smear campaign against the garda whistleblower.

Following a 2006 complaint from Ms D against Sgt McCabe the DPP had directed no prosecution be made as there was no evidence of an offence. A notification sent to gardaí in 2014 after Ms D sought counselling erroneously contained serious allegations from an unrelated case.

Assistant Commissioner Kenny told the meeting it was "unbelievable" the HSE had made "a copy and paste error", and that it was important they deal with the issue "given the people involved."

Mr Sheridan said this referred to Sgt McCabe, and to the fact Ms D had met Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin about her case.

At the meeting a decision was made to seek legal advice and to contact the HSE for a further explanation of how the error had occurred.

The tribunal heard, however, that neither decision was acted on.

"I suggest this was done on purpose to keep the allegation alive," Kathleen Leader BL, for the tribunal, said to Mr Sheridan.

"Certainly not, absolutely not," Mr Sheridan said.

Mr Sheridan said that as far as he was concerned, gardaí had concluded their inquiries into the erroneous report, the original 2007 allegation had been investigated fully, and it was no longer a garda matter.

Mr Sheridan said that Supt Noel Cunningham, who had investigated the original case in 2007, was not present at the meeting because the case was closed, and the meeting was only about the erroneous report in 2014.

Ms Leader said that if Supt Cunningham had been present he could have "put everybody right" about the case.

Mr Sheridan said he did not know much about Sgt Maurice McCabe before he was appointed to the Cavan-Monaghan division in 2001 as chief superintendent.

He said that he had investigated two complaints that Sgt McCabe had made on separate issues.

Mr Sheridan was appointed as liaison when the Guerin inquiry was set up. Senior counsel Sean Guerin was appointed by the government to carry out an independent inquiry into allegations made by Sgt McCabe in early 2014.

The witness provided documentation to the inquiry, including the 2006 allegation of sexual assault made by Ms D. Mr Sheridan said that he read through the file to familiarise himself with it before sending it to the Guerin inquiry.

He said that he did this because he understood the enquiry was "all-embracing".

The chief superintendent said it was "absolutely a surprise" when a referral from Tusla was received in March 2014, relating to the Ms D case, but containing erroneous allegations.

The referral was sent to him by Supt Leo McGinn, who received it from the HSE.

Mr Sheridan said that when he read the referral in its entirety, he "knew then there was something amiss" as it did not match with the original allegations.

Supt McGinn told Mr Sheridan he had spoken to Ms D’s father, a garda officer, "and was finding out if she had made this allegation, and she subsequently informed him that she had not."

Mr Sheridan was also told that the HSE would be contacted about the error

Ms Leader asked if the erroneous referral was "used as a opportunity to put new life into an old allegation and do him down in some way."

"I would reject that," Mr Sheridan said.

He said he reaction was "absolute disbelief" when he saw the erroneous allegation and his sole motivation was to try to find out how it happened.

In a letter dated May 14, 2014, to Assistant Commissioner Kenny about the allegation Mr Sheridan said Ms D’s allegation had been previous investigated, with the DPP directing no prosecution.

The letter did not note that the erroneous allegation received in 2014 was different to the one Ms D made in 2006.

"I accept perhaps I should have put it in but I was still conducting inquiries to establish how it got put in in the first place," Mr Sheridan said.

Mr Sheridan said he could not remember any other time in his career where a mistake had been made in reporting abuse allegations.

The tribunal continues on Monday next.

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