By Niall Murray
Maurice McCabe did the State “considerable service” but became the subject of horrific rumours for simply trying to bring failings in An Garda Síochána to attention, the Disclosures Tribunal concluded.
Its chairman, Mr Justice Peter Charleton, concluded that the Garda sergeant is a “genuine person who at all times has had the interests of the people of Ireland uppermost in his mind”.
“Those interests he regarded as superior to any loyalty which he had to the police force of the State. Neither interest should ever be in conflict,” the Tribunal chair said in his conclusions on the attack on Sgt McCabe’s character.
Mr Justice Charleton said the report’s summary of all the negative things said directly about Maurice McCabe, and the rumours which floated around about him over the decade after early 2007, would undoubtedly leave those reading it horrified.
He described the service of Maurice McCabe, who joined An Garda Síochána in August 1985, as one of quiet application: “He is a fine police officer... He is also a genuinely public-spirited individual; a man of integrity.”
The report also highlights Supt Noel Cunningham’s evidence that Mr McCabe was “a first-class sergeant, a person on whom he could depend to get work done”.
But all of what transpired over the past decade had happened because Maurice McCabe “rightly drew attention to failings in Garda files, to indolence in investigations, and began to see obvious problems, which should have been spotted by Garda management independently of him.”
On foot of those issues being highlighted by the sergeant, the tribunal report states, “talk against him began to grow”.
The tribunal concluded that several mistakes and failures to carry out duties were blamed on Maurice McCabe himself at the O’Higgins Commission, rather than those responsible for derelictions of duty admitting the matter as would happen “within an honest setting”.
Mr Justice Charleton found that this was not inspired by former Garda commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan, who, he said, did not have the authority to tell any garda how to give evidence.
“Maurice McCabe has done the State considerable service by bringing these matters to the attention of the wider public and he has done so, not out of a desire to inflate his public profile, but out of a legitimate drive to ensure that the national police force serves the people through hard work and diligence,” the tribunal report states.
“He is an exemplar of that kind of attitude. Notwithstanding everything that happened to him, he remains an officer of exemplary character and has shown himself in giving evidence to the tribunal as being a person of admirable fortitude,” Mr Justice Charleton concludes.
While citing Mr Justice O’Higgins in saying that Maurice McCabe is “prone to exaggeration at times”, the chairman said it must always be remembered he is an ordinary human who can make mistakes and is prone at times “to grasp the wrong end of an issue”.
At times, he wrote, the sergeant “is not a completely reliable historian because of his intent on his task and his deep feeling on matters. But his evidence was tested during the Disclosures Tribunal, Mr Justice Charleton wrote, and there is “a clear preference” for his evidence over that of Supt David Taylor about their September 2016 meetings.
The report says Maurice McCabe’s focus was on An Garda Síochána’s need to respond efficiently to victims, and on the duty of everyone working in the public service to question themselves as to what, in any day’s work, they had done for the taxpayer on that day.
“This is laudable. It is also no more than is expected of any public servant,” Mr Justice Charleton concludes.
Mr Justice Peter Charleton has found there is “no credible evidence that Deputy Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan played any hand, act or part in any campaign conducted by Commissioner Martin Callinan and by Superintendent David Taylor”.
The report finds that one of Ms O’Sullivan’s first acts as commissioner was “to get rid of Superintendent David Taylor” because “she neither trusted him nor liked him”. The tribunal said it is satisfied that Taylor “had every reason to lie about Commissioner O’Sullivan”, because he was bitter about not being promoted, no longer being press officer, the denial of access he had previously enjoyed to the commissioner’s office, and because Ms O’Sullivan’s husband, Det Supt Jim McGowan, was investigating him over unauthorised leaks to journalists.
Mr Justice Charleton also accepted that O’Sullivan did not instruct that McCabe’s integrity be challenged at the O’Higgins Commission.
However, Mr Justice Charleton took issue with the evidence she gave to the tribunal regarding her communications with the Department of Justice, and its deputy secretary, Ken O’Leary, when the
issues arose around the instructions given to her counsel. “It was not sufficient for her to tell the tribunal that these telephone calls could have been about other matters. No doubt, other matters may have been mentioned but it is clear from the evidence that she was keenly worried about what had happened at the commission and, rightly, regarded Ken O’Leary as a rock of sense,” the report found.
Mr Justice Charleton also found that it is “improbable” that she did not have “an inkling” about Callinan’s views on McCabe. He said it is “more than improbable that nothing emerged in the car journey with him back to Garda Headquarters” after the infamous meeting of the Public Accounts Committee at which Mr Callinan described whistleblower allegations as “disgusting”.
“It was disappointing to hear her evidence on this,” Mr Justice Charleton said.
By Joe Leogue
The Disclosures Tribunal Report has been scathing in its criticism of Superintendent David Taylor, finding that the former Garda press officer “completely understated his own involvement in a campaign of calumny against Sergeant Maurice McCabe”.
It found that, contrary to his claims, he was not acting under orders to denigrate Sgt McCabe’s good name, but that his actions, in briefing against him, somehow evolved out of his “cheek-by-jowl working relationship” with Commissioner Martin Callinan.
“Their plan was that there was to be much nodding and winking and references to a historic claim of sexual abuse, while, at the same time, saying that the Director of Public Prosecutions had ruled that even if the central allegation did not have credibility issues, what was described did not amount to an offence of sexual assault or even an assault,” said Mr Justice Charleton.
The tribunal found it had “no option but to find that Supt David Taylor is a witness whose credibility was completely undermined by his own bitterness”. It said that while Taylor had told McCabe that former Garda commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan, was “the pusher” in the campaign to discredit him, “what should be recalled... is that Supt Taylor was suffused in bitterness against her, in consequence of being moved from the Garda Press Office, added to her decision not to nominate him for a post as a chief superintendent”.
It also found that when Taylor sought a judicial review of disciplinary proceedings commenced against him, over the unauthorised leaking of information to journalists, he “swore an affidavit that was almost entirely made up of nothing but lies”.
Mr Justice Charleton also excoriated Taylor for his performance as a press officer.
By Conall Ó Fátharta
The Disclosures Tribunal has said it is “convinced” there was “a campaign of calumny” against Maurice McCabe by Martin Callinan and that he was “actively aided” by press officer Supt David Taylor.
The tribunal stated while Mr Taylor was involved in this campaign, he was not acting “under orders”.
“The tribunal is convinced that he [Mr Taylor] pursued a scheme that somehow evolved out of his cheek-by-jowl working relationship with Commissioner Callinan. Their plan was that there was to be much nodding and winking and references to a historic claim of sexual abuse while, at the same time, saying that the Director of Public Prosecutions had ruled that even if the central allegation did not have credibility issues, what was described did not amount to an offence of sexual assault or even an assault,” said the report.
There was “no credible evidence” that Nóirín O’Sullivan played “any hand, act or part” in any campaign conducted by Callinan and Taylor.
The tribunal found that Callinan told the former chairman of the PAC, John McGuinness, at a meeting between the pair in Bewley’s Hotel car park on January 24, 2014, that McCabe had sexually abused members of his own family. Callinan denied McGuinness’ recollection of these events but the tribunal found “the conversations as described by John McGuinness took place”.
Mr Justice Charleton also found that a conversation between Callinan and the Comptroller & Auditor General Seamus McCarthy before a PAC meeting also was as described by McCarthy.
He had said Callinan told him that McCabe could “not be trusted”, “had questions to answer” and that there were sexual offence allegations against him. The tribunal also believed RTÉ journalist Philip Boucher Hayes who said that Callinan had told him that McCabe had “psychiatric issues” and had been involved in “the worst possible kind of things”.
By Eoin English
Former justice minister Frances Fitzgerald has been vindicated for her decision not to interfere in the O’Higgins Commission process.
Mr Justice Peter Charleton said he is satisfied that Ms Fitzgerald and the former Garda commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan did not speak about the legal strategy employed by lawyers for O’Sullivan against whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe during the commission hearings in 2015.
While Fitzgerald was made aware by email on May 15, 2015, of the legal row at the Commission after O’Sullivan’s legal team questioned McCabe’s motivation, the tribunal accepted Fitzgerald’s decision not to interfere was an “honest appraisal” of the situation. “It was not a lazy dodging of the issues but rather a considered response to the information,” Mr Justice Charleton said.
Fitzgerald resigned from Government in November 2017 after weeks of controversy over what she knew about the legal strategy and what she did about it. She was accused at the time of standing back and of allowing the “aggressive legal strategy to unfold”. In her evidence, she said while she noted the contents of the email from May 15, 2015, she felt it was a matter entirely for the O’Higgins Commission. “It would have been completely inappropriate for me, as Minister, to interfere, to have any political interference. The day of political interference in something like that was well gone, as far as I was concerned,” she told the tribunal.
Mr Justice Charleton also praised Ken O’Leary, deputy secretary in the Department of Justice, who had a “close to total recall of his conversations” with O’Sullivan in relation to the issues. O’Leary told O’Sullivan the department could not become involved in any way in her approach to the Commission. Mr Justice Charleton said O’Sullivan had used O’Leary as a “sounding board” and had “received unimpeachable advice”.