Charleton tribunal: Senior Garda said he was quite happy to work with whistleblower

A garda superintendent has denied ignoring a 2013 letter by a social worker regarding sexual assault allegations against garda whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe in order to “trigger an earthquake in the HSE”.

Supt Noel Cunningham, who was an inspector at the time, also has told the Charleton tribunal that it was not appropriate for him to have been assigned to investigate the allegation of child sexual assault made a decade ago by the daughter of another garda.

Supt Cunningham said he knew both Sgt McCabe and the other garda, identified as Mr D. He did not know the complainant, Ms D.

Superintendent Noel Cunningham leaving after giving evidence today.

The DPP later decided that there was no evidence any offence had been committed. The tribunal is looking at claims there was a smear campaign against Sgt McCabe.

Supt Cunningham said he did not believe he should have been assigned to the case "for the optics of the thing."

"I knew the parties. I didn't know Ms D but I knew her dad, and I knew Sgt Maurice McCabe, so I just felt it was more appropriate that somebody from outside who didn't know was directed to carry out this investigation," he told the inquiry.

The superintendent added that a GSOC inquiry had complimented him on his handling of the investigation.

The witness also said he was not aware of the full details, but he understood there had been an incident involving a complaint Sgt McCabe made about Mr D before the allegations were made, which led to Mr D being disciplined and assigned to different duties.

Sgt McCabe stepped down from his post when Supt Cunningham was promoted from inspector to superintendent in 2008.

Supt Cunningham said that he went to Sgt McCabe's office and asked him to reconsider when the sergeant applied for a transfer to another area and "had no difficulty with him remaining on as Sergeant in Charge."

"I was quite happy to work with him," Supt Cunningham said.

The superintendent said that Sgt McCabe "appeared very stressed" and he suggested that the sergeant could see a welfare officer.

Maurice McCabe

Mícheál P O'Higgins SC, on behalf of the garda commissioner, said that Supt Cunningham later wrote to Sgt McCabe "in friendly terms" updating him on events in Cavan since he had transferred to Mullingar.

Supt Cunningham confirmed to Mr O'Higgins that he had not received instructions from former Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan, Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan, Supt David Taylor or anyone in senior garda management to ignore a 2013 letter from HSE social worker Keara McGlone about the investigation.

Asked if he took a deliberate decision to “wilfully not respond to Keara McGlone's letter in the knowledge it would trigger an earthquake in the HSE” Supt Cunningham replied: “absolutely not".

Asked if he took part in a smear campaign against Sgt McCabe, he again replied: "Absolutely not."

Supt Cunningham said he was never motivated by any animus to Sgt McCabe, and said he would not describe Sgt McCabe as "a thorn in his side". He said this was a phrase that had been used by Michael McDowell SC, the barrister for Sgt McCabe.

He said that when he placed the file on the investigation into Sgt McCabe in a press in his office, and when he later added to that file the letter from Ms McGlone, he was seeking to protect the interests and rights of both Sgt McCabe and Ms D.

"Nobody could be accused of leaking it because they simply didn't have it," Supt Cunningham said.

The tribunal also heard that Supt Cunningham went on two months leave just after the letter arrived from the HSE, and when he returned it was to an extremely busy desk, with duties including court appearances and ongoing GSOC inquiries.

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