Brendan Howlin says Dáil claims were not ‘idle chat or pub gossip’

Labour leader Brendan Howlin has hit back at critics of his Dáil claim that the Garda commissioner may have spread allegations of sexual crimes against a whistleblower, insisting it was “credible” and “not pub gossip”.

He revealed yesterday that he had spoken to Sgt Maurice McCabe, the whistleblower at the centre of claims, who he said thanked him for his intervention.

Mr Howlin used Dáil privilege on Wednesday when he said a journalist told him they had “direct knowledge” of calls made by Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan to journalists in which she is said to have made “very serious allegations of sexual crimes” against Sgt McCabe.

Mr Howlin said this proves Ms O’Sullivan should stand aside during a fresh inquiry into an alleged smear campaign against Sgt McCabe.

Several TDs questioned Mr Howlin’s justification for his claim, saying he engaged in hearsay.

Clare Daly (Ind) said his actions were “unverified, hearsay, third party”, and getting into “dangerous” areas where politicians should not go.

Mr Howlin said: “This was not idle chat or pub gossip. I received information which I believe to be credible.”

Ms O’Sullivan strongly denies the claims.

Mr Howlin also denied damaging Sgt McCabe, saying he had spoken to him: “He confirmed to me that he is, of course, aware in specific detail of the allegations made against him. He has been aware of them, and he and his family have had to live with them for a number of years. And I am glad to be able to inform the House that he has expressed gratitude for my intervention yesterday, and in no way regards it as having been damaging to him.”

Mr Howlin also warned that the inquiry, also examining alleged journalist collusion with gardaí, may have consequences for the media: “It has been alleged that the media allowed themselves to be used by those with power to denigrate those without. If the commission of investigation makes such a finding, I hope it will give the media cause to reflect upon their own actions as much as they have on mine.”

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