Former commmissioner responsible for actions of her legal team, Sgt McCabe's lawyer tells Charleton Tribunal

Former garda commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan remained responsible for the actions of her legal team at the O'Higgins Commission of Inquiry, lawyers for whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe told the Charleton Tribunal.

Michael McDowell SC, for Sgt McCabe, said that whatever was done at the O'Higgins Commission by the legal team acting on behalf of garda commissioner O'Sullivan was in effect done by the commissioner, on whose authority they acted.

In the third module, the tribunal examined whether unjustified grounds were inappropriately relied upon by the former garda commissioner O'Sullivan to discredit Sgt McCabe at the O'Higgins Commission.

The commission, which sat in private in 2015, investigated complaints made by Sgt McCabe about certain policing matters and about serious allegations against senior officers including then Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan.

Mr McDowell said that clarification had been sought and confirmed twice on 15 May 2015, the second day of hearings at the commission, that the legal team was acting on the commissioner's instructions in challenging Sgt McCabe's credibility.

Former garda commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan.

He also said that Ms O'Sullivan had confirmed in her evidence that she had read the transcripts of the commission's hearings, and so she was aware of her legal team's actions.

The barrister said that it was scandalous and unwarranted for the commissioner's legal team to argue in a submission to the commission that Sgt McCabe was motivated by the fact he had been the subject of a garda investigation following allegations of abuse in 2006. The DPP directed no prosecution in that case, saying there was no evidence a crime was committed.

Mr McDowell said there was no doubt that there was a general strategy to discredit Sgt McCabe as a witness at the commission.

He said there were "sustained attempts" to lay responsibility on Sgt McCabe as member in charge for incidents which occurred in Bailieboro Garda station, including a computer seized as evidence which had gone missing from garda custody.

"At a point where Sgt McCabe was making complaints about penalty points, this was suddenly launched against him as a disciplinary process," Mr McDowell said.

Mr McDowell said it was remarkable that Annmarie Ryan, an experienced and competent solicitor in the service of the State, was not facilitated by the garda commissioner when she sought a meeting on 15 May, 2015, after questions arose over the commissioner's instructions to her legal team.

Ms Ryan was left with the very clear impression that such a consultation was impossible, Mr McDowell said, although Ms O'Sullivan had given evidence that she would have made herself available for any meeting.

This was contradicted by the evidence of Chief Supt Fergus Healy, who gave evidence he was told Ms O'Sullivan was not available for a meeting at the time due to other commitments, Mr McDowell said.

Mr McDowell said that Ms O'Sullivan's actions were contradictory, as on the one hand she gave evidence she valued Sgt McCabe and sought to protect him in the vulnerable position he found himself, while at the same time her counsel was challenging him before the O'Higgins commission.

These contradictions would have been resolved if Ms O'Sullivan had taken the step of meeting with solicitor Annmarie Ryan and other legal counsel.


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