Senior gardai "entirely justified" in challenging credibility of Maurice McCabe, tribunal hears

By Gerard Cunningham

The allegation that former garda commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan used unjustified grounds to discredit a garda whistleblower is a result of leaks demonstrated to be false, lawyers have told the Disclosures Tribunal.

In it's third module the tribunal is currently investigating whether unjustified grounds were inappropriately relied upon by the former garda commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan to discredit Sgt Maurice McCabe at the O'Higgins Commission of Investigation.

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.

Barrister Paul Sreenan SC appeared on behalf of Colm Smyth SC, Michael MacNamee BL and Garrett Byrne BL, who represented An Garda Síochána at the O'Higgins commission.

Mr Sreenan said that his clients had represented not only Ms O'Sullivan, but also Chief Supt Michael Clancy, Supt Noel Cunningham, Chief Supt Colm Rooney and former garda commissioner Martin Callinan.

Mr Sreenan said his clients were "entirely justified" in challenging the credibility and motivation of Sgt McCabe before the commission, in order to vindicate the good name of their clients.

Allegations had been made of corruption against senior garda officers, and they were entitled to defend their good names.

The O'Higgins report had found no evidence of corruption, and had said the allegations were deeply hurtful to his clients, Mr Sreenan continued.

Mr Sreenan said it was not put to Mr Smyth that the same approach would have been taken toward Sgt McCabe if the commission had held its hearing in public. Sgt McCabe's barrister Michael McDowell had now raised this in his closing submission.

Mr Sreenan said that in answer to a question the chairman has asked at the end of hearings in February, there was no proper basis for this term of reference to the disclosures tribunal.

Mr Justice Charleton had asked:

"Was there any proper basis to ask the tribunal to investigate this particular module, or was it entirely based on leaks and on conjecture?”

Mr Sreenan today said the terms of reference of this module came about as a result of leaks from the O'Higgins commission "which have now been demonstrated to be false."

Patrick McCann SC, on behalf of the Department of Justice and former minister Frances Fitzgerald, said that officials in the department behaved lawfully and appropriately in leaving questions of legal strategy to the garda commissioner, and in maintaining an appropriate distance from the operations of the independent O'Higgins Commission.

On behalf of John Barrett, the civilian human resources director of An Garda Siochana, Tony McGillycuddy told the tribunal his client came forward at an early stage and made a statement to the tribunal. Mr Barrett had at all times tried to carry out his work with diligence and enthusiasm.

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