Former garda commissioner Martin Callinan briefed celebrity solicitor Gerald Kean for almost an hour before a radio appearance in which Mr Kean questioned and criticised whistleblower Sergeant Maurice McCabe.
Mr Callinan also helped Mr Kean write a response to Sgt McCabe after the whistleblower threatened legal action, alleging that Mr Kean had made “horrendous” statements on air accusing him criminal and disciplinary offences that were highly damaging to his reputation.
Mr Kean told the Disclosures Tribunal yesterday that Mr Callinan had told him Sgt McCabe was troublesome, difficult, and obstructive or words to that effect; that he had refused to co-operate with an internal garda probe into his whistleblower claims and had breached the Data Protection Act by leaking personal details of penalty point recipients to TDs.
Mr Kean said he knew now that the criticisms of Sgt McCabe were incorrect and that he had been “used” by Mr Callinan to promote that view of the Sgt McCabe.
Asked if had been “sold a pup” by the former commissioner, he said: “In hindsight, I think you are correct.”
Mr Kean told the tribunal he had only met Mr Callinan once, at a charity function in his native Cork, before he decided to contact him prior to going on the Marian Finucane Show on RTÉ Radio on Sunday, January 26, 2014, where he was to be a panellist discussing the news of the week, including the whistleblower controversy.
Phone records show he spoke to Mr Callinan four times the day before the show and once the next morning. He also received a text message from Mr Callinan shortly before the show started.
Mr Kean said he wanted clarification from Mr Callinan as to whether it was still the case, as had been claimed by then justice minister Alan Shatter in the Dáil the previous October, that Sgt McCabe had failed to co-operate with Garda inquiries into his allegations of wrongdoing.
“It was on my mind that that might have changed,” Mr Kean said. “Maybe Sgt McCabe had spent the last three weeks in Garda headquarters giving information.”
Mr Callinan assured him that nothing had changed and went on to make derogatory remarks about Sgt McCabe and to accuse him of data breaches, although he asked not to be named as the source of this information.
Mr Kean said he did not think it odd that the commissioner would speak in such detail to him about the inner workings of the force as he had clearly already briefed Mr Shatter in the same way.
Mr Kean said he did not seek other sources to back up what Mr Callinan said because he was just being a panellist, not an investigative journalist.
“I was brought up in a house where my dad was a Garda sergeant, believing that people like the commissioner were beyond reproach,” he said.
Mr Kean went on the radio and repeated what he had been told. He said he was shocked to learn after the show that Sgt McCabe had called and said Mr Kean’s information was wrong and his comments defamatory.
He put in a “panic call” to Mr Callinan straight away but the commissioner “stood his ground”. Asked by counsel for Sgt McCabe if Mr Callinan had known his information was incorrect, Mr Kean said: “I believe so.”
On February 6, Mr Kean received a letter from Sgt McCabe referring to his radio comments and asking him to remedy the damage he had caused. He immediately sent it to Mr Callinan together with a draft reply.
Mr Callinan did not respond directly but his personal secretary, Superintendent Frank Walsh, met Mr Kean in his office on February 12, bringing with him a handwritten note from the commissioner containing points to add to his reply.
The letter subsequently sent to Sgt McCabe included Mr Callinan’s notes and created a more robust defence than Mr Kean’s original text. The tribunal heard the proceedings against Mr Kean had since been dropped.
Mr Callinan has yet to have his turn to give evidence at the tribunal.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved