Tribunal hears Martin Callinan made no attempt to smear Maurice McCabe

Pat Rabbitte arriving at Disclosures Tribunal in Dublin Castle, which is chaired by Supreme Court Judge Peter Charleton.

By Gerard Cunningham

Update 6.15pm: There was no attempt by former garda commissioner Martin Callinan to smear whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe, the former secretary general of the Department of Justice told the Charleton tribunal.

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 by Miss D against Sgt McCabe in 2006, saying that the garda investigation found no evidence that a crime was committed.

Brian Purcell said that when he asked garda commissioner Martin Callinan in 2013 if there was anything "in the background" about Sgt McCabe he received a "manner of fact" briefing on the Ms D case, and was told that the DPP found there was no case to answer.

Mr Purcell said that he could not recall if he received the briefing in person or over the phone.

"The way he presented it was on a factual basis," Mr Purcell said.

Mr Purcell said there was no attempt by the commissioner to smear Sgt McCabe's character.

"The only thought I had in my own mind was "Jesus, I would hate to find myself in a position where that would happen to me"," Mr Purcell said.

Mr Purcell (pictured above) said his concern with Sgt McCabe was the penalty points issue, and how was it being dealt with. He said there were concerns about confidential information being put in the public domain, and "a presumption that anyone who had points cancelled had done something wrong".

Mr Purcell could not recall if he heard the "disgusting" remark made by Mr Callinan before a January 2014 Public Accounts Committee Hearing (PAC) in relation to whistleblowers at the time, but he became aware of it shortly after.

Mr Purcell said that a text message reading "Well done, exceptional performance under fire" which he sent after Mr Callinan gave evidence to the PAC was a gesture of "solidarity".

Mr Purcell said he had been through PAC hearings himself, and knew it could be a difficult experience.

"It's really just an expression of solidarity - look you had a tough time in there, well done - no more no less," Mr Purcell said.

Mr Purcell said that he understood the reason why Mr Callinan sought a meeting with PAC chairman John McGuinness after the hearing was because he was concerned that if Sgt McCabe gave evidence in public, that confidential information would be made public.

Afterwards, he said, Mr Callinan "was satisfied he'd made the case", even if he was not convinced that he had persuaded the PAC chairman.

Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy, who was on the public accounts committee in 2014, told the tribunal that there were rumours going around Leinster House that the garda whistleblowers were "odd".

Mr Murphy said it was "quite obvious that what people were trying to do was to discredit their evidence because it was uncomfortable evidence".

Mr Murphy said he was not aware that Mr McGuinness had a carpark meeting with former commissioner Callinan about Sgt McCabe until Mr McGuinness spoke about it in the Dáil in 2016.

Mr Murphy said that Leo Varadkar was "frustrated" that Sgt McCabe's claims were not being taken seriously.

John Kennedy, a former garda who worked as a driver for Labour minister Pat Rabbitte, denied that he had told Mr Rabbitte that Sgt McCabe "couldn't be trusted with children".

Mr Kennedy served as a garda from 1972 to 2006, working in the Special Detective Unit, on protective duties with Peter Barry, and in the National Immigration Bureau.

After his retirement, Mr Kennedy joined the Labour party in 2007, and began working as a driver for Mr Rabbitte in 2011.

Mr Kennedy said he got on "very well" with Mr Rabbitte", although he "could be grumpy at times".

"In the morning he didn't talk too much," Mr Kennedy said.

Mr Kennedy said he did not know Sgt McCabe, but he had sympathy for him. "Its a very lonely perch when a guard is in a spot of bother," Mr Kennedy said.

Mr Kennedy said he did not keep in contact with fellow gardaí after he retired and did not know anything about Sgt McCabe, "Certainly nothing of the nature of this thing I allegedly said about Sgt McCabe, which has upset my family very greatly by the way," he said.

Tribunal chairman Mr Justice Peter Charleton told the witness that whatever he would conclude about the conflict of evidence between Mr Rabbitte and Mr Kennedy, he did not believe Mr Kennedy was "a malicious gossip".

"If this happened it was on the basis of a confidential conversation," the chairman said.

"I appreciate that, your honour," Mr Kennedy said.

The tribunal resumes tomorrow/ when it will hear evidence from Supt Frank Walsh, private secretary to former garda commissioners Callinan and Nóirín O'Sullivan.

Update: 3.15pm: Disclosures Tribunal: Martin and Rabbitte heard rumours McCabe was suspected of child abuse

Two prominent politicians have given evidence to the Charleton tribunal of rumours they heard that garda whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe was not to be trusted and was suspected of child 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 Sgt McCabe in 2006, saying that the garda investigation found no evidence that a crime was committed.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin told the tribunal he met with Sgt McCabe in February 2014, after speaking about him with John McGuinness TD.

Mr Martin said he was given a dossier on garda malpractice in the Cavan/Monaghan District by Sgt McCabe, which he raised in Dáil Éireann. Afterwards he gave the report to Taoiseach Enda Kenny.

Mr Martin said "there was a lot of rumour about the place" in Leinster House about Sgt McCabe, and his press officer was asked by reporters if Sgt McCabe was reliable.

Mr Martin said that the issue that stood out for him in Sgt McCabe's dossier was the case of Sylvia Roche Kelly.

Ms Kelly was murdered in 2007 by a man who was released on bail. Mr Martin said that this was this issue which made him decide to raise Sgt McCabe's complaints in the Dáil.

"He impressed me as a witness. He had substantive material. He made it clear to me he wasn't leaking to the media or looking for notoriety," Mr Martin said.

Later in February 2014, Mr Martin had a meeting with TD John McGuinness. "Towards the end of the meeting, he then said to me that he had met then Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan in a car park and he had said to him that Maurice McCabe was not to be trusted and he was a child abuser," Mr Martin said.

Mr Martin said he was taken aback, even though he had previously heard the rumours, as this time the information was coming from the garda commissioner.

"To accuse anyone of child abuse is probably the worst accusation you can make against any individual," Mr Martin said.

Mr Martin said that he was reluctant to repeat the information to anyone else, because of the damage such an allegation could do.

He said that if the Commissioner had said it, then there would be an investigation, and a prosecution would follow if necessary. In the meantime, the dossier on penalty points contained concrete information.

"There is a reasonable assumption that if the Garda Commissioner is saying this, surely he must have a basis for saying it," Mr Martin said.

Following publication of an article by Paul Williams, Mr Martin said he was subsequently asked if he was prepared to meet with Miss D, and agreed to do so.

Miss D told Mr Martin she had been abused, and "her main concern with me was she felt it had not been investigated properly" and should be added to the terms of reference for any inquiry.

Mr Martin petitioned the Taoiseach on Miss D's behalf, and also spoke to Sgt McCabe, who told him the complaint had been investigated fully by the DPP.

Mr Martin said no garda ever directly spoke to him about Sgt McCabe.

Conor Dignam SC, representing Martin Callinan, put it to Mr Martin that he was mistaken about what Mr McGuinness had told him in February 2014, and had not learned about the car park meeting between Commissioner Callinan and Mr McGuinness until much later.

Mr Martin said there was no mistake. "Deputy McGuinness did say this to me in my office. That's just a fact. I'm not in any shape or form mistaken in relation to that meeting," Mr Martin said.

Mr Martin said all his experience said he should "proceed cautiously", as he was not prepared to repeat such a damaging rumour.

"Child abuse is very serious. When that gets into the public domain its very hard to get it back, very hard," Mr Martin said.

He said that if the rumour was true, and the Garda Commissioner was saying it, then the information would emerge in the form of a conviction, or a criminal case.

"I steered clear of hearsay, rumour, talk. I just kept to concrete, tangible material," Mr Martin said.

Former minister Pat Rabbitte said that after a 2014 RTÉ interview, he spoke with his driver, former Garda John Kennedy.

"He said he hadn't known I knew Maurice McCabe. He wanted to warn me in my own best interests of wading into the controversy when the rumours on the grapevine said he might not be a man of the character I said he was," Mr Rabbitte said.

Mr Rabbitte said Mr Kennedy told him that Sgt McCabe "couldn't be trusted, his own colleagues said he couldn't be trusted with children."

"There could scarcely be an allegation more grave that you could level against a man's character," Mr Rabbitte said.

Mr Rabbitte said he believed that Mr Kennedy was acting in good faith, and "certainly wasn't in the business of propagating a rumour. He was merely alerting me about information he had that I didn't have, and that I should perhaps be careful."

Mr Des Dockery SC for John Kennedy said his client denied having a meeting or conversation with Mr Rabbitte about Sgt McCabe, and did not know Sgt McCabe.

Mr Rabbitte said he had not made a written note, and there was "a difficulty with Mr Kennedy's memory."

Mr Rabbitte said he had not made a note of the conversation, but the head of his private office could confirm his evidence, as he had relayed the information afterward.

The tribunal continues this afternoon.

Update - 1.59pm: Leo Varadkar told me Sgt McCabe 'needs to be heard', says Eoghan Murphy

Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy has said Leo Varadkar told him that the concerns of Garda whistleblower Maurice McCabe "needs to be heard".

Speaking at the Disclosures Tribunal today, the Dublin TD outlined how he was a member of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) when Sgt McCabe was due to appear before it in January 2014.

At the time, there was debate about whether PAC had a remit to investigate concerns or not of Sgt McCabe about abuse of the penalty points system.

Mr Murphy said he had concerns around PAC's role, but that he was also not aware of specific rumours about Sgt McCabe at the time.

However, he said there were claims or rumours, including in Leinster House, that Sgt McCabe and fellow whistleblower garda John Wilson were in some way "odd".

He said he discounted the rumours, as people were trying to stop their evidence as it was "uncomfortable".

Mr Murphy said one weekend he spoke to Leo Varadkar, the then transport minister, by phone.

Mr Varadkar said he was "frustrated" that Sgt McCabe's concerns were not being taken seriously.

The Housing Minister also said Mr Varadkar "put the case that this person needs to be heard."

The tribunal continues today and is investigating if there was a campaign by the force to smear or discredit Sgt McCabe.

11.50am: Micheál Martin tells Disclosures Tribunal he heard rumours Sgt McCabe was 'not reliable'

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin says he heard rumours that Sgt Maurice McCabe was “not reliable”, but no allegations of sex abuse against the garda whistleblower in the political or media arenas.

However, Mr Martin outlined how a young woman named Miss D came to his office in April 2014 and alleged that Sgt McCabe had abused her as a child.

This followed contact made by journalist Paul Williams with his party office and after an article about Miss D by the same author. The garda was not named in the article, but Mr Martin said he used his intuition and thought the story was about Sgt McCabe.

Mr Martin said: “I took the matter very seriously, a young woman coming before you and making this allegation.

"She said she had been abused. Her main concern was that it was not investigated properly.”

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin TD at the Disclosures Tribunal in Dublin Castle. Pic: Collins

Mr Martin was today asked about what he knew about an alleged smear campaign against Sgt McCabe, which the Disclosures Tribunal is investigating.

He outlined how he met Sgt McCabe in 2014 and the garda told him about the “systemic abuse” of the penalty points system. The garda went through a series of issues and other allegations of malpractice against the force and Mr Martin asked him to put together a dossier.

The Fianna Fáil leader told how he forwarded this to the Taoiseach, asking that those matters be included in an inquiry.

Mr Martin told the tribunal this morning he was cautious about following up on issues or allegations unless they were from documents, meetings and not hearsay.

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