Latest: Garda head of communications 'appalled' if told commissioner to brief about sex abuse

Latest: Garda head of communications 'appalled' if told commissioner to brief about sex abuse
Andrew McLindon. Pic: Eamonn Farrell/RollingNews.ie

By Gerard Cunningham

Update 6.44pm: The Garda head of communications has said he would have been “appalled” if told that the Garda Commissioner wanted to brief journalists about sex abuse allegations against whistleblower Sergeant Maurice McCabe.

Civilian witness Andrew McLindon was today giving evidence at the Charleton Tribunal.

He was appointed to Director of Communications with An Garda Síochana in 2013, a position equivalent to the rank of chief superintendent.

The tribunal is looking at allegations that senior gardaí were smearing the whistleblower to politicians, journalists and others.

The tribunal has heard previously that the DPP directed no prosecution after an historic abuse allegation was made against Sgt McCabe in 2006, saying that the Garda investigation found no evidence that a crime was committed.

Superintendent David Taylor, a former Garda press officer, told the tribunal that he was instructed by then-Commissioner Martin Callinan to brief negatively against Sgt McCabe, and that there were allegations of sexual abuse against the whistleblower.

Michael P O'Higgins SC, on behalf of Supt David Taylor, put it to Mr McLindon that two or three weeks into the job, Mr McLindon got a full briefing on all major and live issues including Sgt McCabe.

Mr O'Higgins put it to Mr McLindon that his reaction was "matter of fact, sanguine" and he did not react outwardly or raise any questions.

"I would have been appalled and highly concerned," Mr McLindon said.

Mr McLindon said he had never been told by Supt Taylor of any instructions to brief negatively against Sgt McCabe.

"I would have been seriously concerned, it would have been anathema to me as a public relations professional," Mr McLindon said.

Mr McLindon said that Mr Callinan had a view that Sgt McCabe had not cooperated with the O'Mahoney internal Garda investigation into his complaints.

He said that Sgt McCabe's motivations were not his concern as he was interested in defending the reputation of the organisation. He said whether the allegations were true or not, he would have been "appalled" if there was a smear campaign.

Mr McLindon said that he was aware of the 2006 allegation and the subsequent Garda investigation, and knew that "the rumour was basically that there had been an allegation, it had been investigated and there was nothing to it, so as far as I was concerned there was nothing to do about it."

Mr McLindon said that a note reading "Start Sgt McCabe 2006" taken at a meeting in preparation for Mr Callinan's Public Account Committee (PAC) appearance in January 2014 meant that the allegations against Sgt McCabe were discussed, but he could not recall what was said.

Mr McLindon said that in certain circumstances, he could provide background information to journalists off the record. Questioned further by the tribunal chairman, Mr Justice Peter Charleton, he said that a journalist would not be bound by confidentiality if given incorrect information by a source.

Asked if Sgt McCabe was seen within the force as "a bitter little man", Mr McLindon said that would be the view held among some.

"I couldn't say that was the view held generally," he added.

Earlier: Tribunal hears Callinan told Comptroller and Auditor General that Sgt McCabe was not to be trusted

By Gerard Cunningham

Comptroller and Auditor General Seamus McCarthy has told the Charleton Tribunal that former Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan told him there were sexual offence allegations against whistleblower Maurice McCabe.

Mr Callinan also told Mr McCarthy that Sergeant McCabe was not to be trusted, in what Mr McCarthy felt was an attempt to shake his “conviction” in his report on cancelled penalty points, he told the tribunal today.

Mr McCarthy said that when the tribunal asked those with information to get in contact: “It was quite clear to me I was obliged to come forward.”

Latest: Garda head of communications 'appalled' if told commissioner to brief about sex abuse

The tribunal is looking at allegations that senior gardaí were smearing the whistleblower to politicians, journalists and others.

The tribunal has heard previously that the DPP directed no prosecution after an historic abuse allegation was made against Sergeant McCabe in 2007, saying that the garda investigation found no evidence that a crime was committed.

Seamus McCarthy, Comptroller and Auditor General from May 2012, told the tribunal that his office received a file of 4,000 cancelled penalty points notices from Sergeant McCabe in August 2012.

Sergeant McCabe alleged that some of the notices were cancelled illegally and corruptly. A second, similar file was received in October of that year from Noel Brett, chief executive of the Road Safety Authority.

Mr McCarthy said he was aware of rumours surrounding the disappearance of a computer containing graphic imagery, seized during a criminal investigation, and that "there was some reference to a role played by a station sergeant in relation to the loss".

As a result, when Mr Callinan referred to a sexual offence investigation, Mr McCarthy thought this might refer to the missing computer.

Mr McCarthy said that when he arrived at the lobby outside the PAC hearing room, there were several officers with Mr Callinan, among them Deputy Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan, Assistant Commissioner John Twomey, Supt David Taylor, and Assistant Commissioner John O'Mahoney.

Mr McCarthy said the commissioner approached him and raised Sgt McCabe's name. "He was not to be trusted, that he had questions to answer, and that there were sexual offence allegations against him," Mr McCarthy said.

Mr McCarthy was concerned as his office had not identified the whistleblower publicly. He said that the office had conducted its own investigation and not relied on the whistleblower, and did not confirm the whistleblower was Sgt McCabe.

"The only thing I could think of was the instance where a whistleblower was alleged to be involved in the disappearance of a computer and I concluded the matter the commissioner was referring to was that issue," Mr McCarthy said.

He said he had not spoken to anyone about what Mr Callinan told him before the tribunal was set up.

Mr Conor Dignam SC, representing Mr Callinan, put it to Mr McCarthy that his client did not mention Sergeant McCabe by name outside PAC, and that he had said that Sergeant McCabe's allegations were "questionable", not that he had questions to answer.

Mr McCarthy said that was not what he recalled. Mr McCarthy also denied he was the one who had said he had heard rumours of "McCabe being investigated over an allegation of a sexual nature".

Mr McCarthy said he thought that the conversation with Mr Callinan could be “somehow an attempt to shake my conviction in my report”.

But he said this was moot, as by then his report had been completed, and his office had carried out its own independent investigation of the penalty points cancellations.

"I stood over it and I still do," Mr McCarthy said.

Mr Andrew McLindon, the civilian director of communications at An Garda Síochána, said he did not hear any comments by Mr Callinan to Fianna Fáil TD, John McGuinness, at the PAC meeting, and that Superintendent David Taylor did not tell him about any comments. "I wasn't party to those conversations," he said.

Mr McLindon, who has a position equivalent to the rank of chief superintendent, said that in meetings preparing for the PAC appearance, Chief Supt Fergus Healy suggested that Mr Callinan should praise whistleblowers in his opening comments for bringing forward information. This was supported by Ms O'Sullivan, but ruled out by Mr Callinan.

Mr McLindon said that because of the “culture and nature of the organisation”, Mr Callinan was more likely to listen to advice from members of the force than civilians, and “that was something I had to work with”.

Mr McLindon said he could not explain why references to 2006 allegations against Sergeant McCabe were included in notes during the preparatory meetings before the commissioner's PAC appearance.

Mr McLindon said he was "shocked and surprised and concerned" when Mr Callinan used the word "disgusting" to describe whistleblowers at the PAC hearing, and felt it was a very strong term.

Afterwards, Mr McLindon looked into arranging an interview with RTÉ presenter Sean O'Rourke, where Mr Callinan could "move back" from the term. However, after a weekend considering the issue, he said Mr Callinan decided against the interview.

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