Nóirín O’Sullivan didn’t hear all the bad stuff that was going around about Maurice McCabe a few years back. She didn’t speak to anybody about it either.
Neither did she see other people discussing it. Her evidence to the Disclosures Tribunal yesterday inferred that she was completely oblivious to scurrilous rumours, lies and distortions circulating in Garda HQ and the media about the turbulent whistleblower.
Ms O’Sullivan was back before the inquiry to tell what, if anything, she knew about an alleged smear campaign against Sergeant McCabe.
The basis for the campaign, according to former head of the Garda Press Office, superintendent Dave Taylor, was an allegation that had been made against Sgt McCabe in 2006.
This involved Miss D, the daughter of a colleague with whom Sgt McCabe had been in some conflict. The DPP decided there was nothing to it.
As Judge Charleton said yesterday, if there was a “ladder” of one to 10 on the seriousness of sexual abuse offences, this particular allegation wasn’t even on the ladder. And neither was there any evidence that anything even occurred.
However, Supt Taylor maintains that he spread word in the media in 2013-14 about the old allegation, inferring there was “no smoke without fire”.
He claims to have done this on direction from then-commissioner Martin Callinan, and with the knowledge of deputy commissioner Ms O’Sullivan.
She was asked again about her knowledge of the allegation. She had been informed of it in 2008 when she worked in human resources.
The next she heard of it was in 2015, in the run-up to the O’Higgins commission, set up to investigate some of Sgt McCabe’s complaints.
“Since 2008, right up to the O’Higgins commission, I don’t remember it being discussed anywhere,” she said.
Tribunal lawyer Kathleen Leader brought her through the run-up to a controversial meeting of the Public Accounts Committee in January 2014. This was the meeting where Martin Callinan said the actions of the whistleblowers was “disgusting”.
There were six preparatory meetings in Garda HQ before it. Notes were taken at at least two of these where there were references to the Miss D allegation. Ms O’Sullivan doesn’t remember any mention of the matter.
“I have no memory and I don’t believe the Ms D allegation was mentioned at those meetings in my presence,” she said.
Pressed by Ms Leader, the former commissioner didn’t budge.
She accompanied Martin Callinan to the PAC meeting. Just before it, she introduced the commissioner to John Deasy TD, who has told the tribunal that Mr Callinan made derogatory remarks about Sgt McCabe. Ms O’Sullivan didn’t hear anything like that.
Neither did she hear a conversation between Martin Callinan and John McGuinness when the latter came up to Mr Callinan and Ms O’Sullivan at the end of the PAC meeting.
Then there was the matter of a serious false allegation generated in Tusla that painted Sgt McCabe as a child rapist.
A referral about this matter went all the way to Garda HQ in May 2014, at a time when the Sgt McCabe was making storm-sized waves in the gardaí.
Ms O’Sullivan was shown a document in which her private secretary acknowledged she had seen the referral.
She has no memory of ever seeing it. Later, Michael McDowell put it this way to Ms O’Sullivan: “You’ve seen evidence that politicians had heard about the D allegation, that there were rumours in Garda HQ, that superintendent Frank Walsh (her private secretary) was aware of rumours circulating about it. I’m at a loss to understand that you seem to have been the only person unaware of these rumours, and nobody ever imparted them to you in any shape or form?”
The witness replied: “Anybody who knows me knows I’m not a person to engage in idle gossip.”
Whatever about not hearing, talking or seeing any evil being flogged about Sgt McCabe, the former commissioner did notice Supt Taylor was not the right man for the job of press officer.
She was asked why she moved him soon after taking over the top job from Martin Callinan. At this point, it was back to the future because Ms O’Sullivan began engaging in the PR gobbledegook which used to mark her time in charge. It got to be too much for Judge Charleton.
“It’s not helping me if you lapse into PR-type speak,” the judge said. “He couldn’t stand you and maybe you couldn’t stand him.”
Ms O’Sullivan agreed, definitely, maybe.
As it was to turn out, while Ms O’Sullivan wasn’t great at remembering, David Taylor was not one to forget.
The tribunal has heard he was “bitter” about being moved and counsel for the Garda management claims this was what informed his decision to make a protected disclosure, implicating Ms O’Sullivan.
Towards the end of the day, Judge Charleton repeatedly pressed Mr Taylor’s counsel about what exactly his case was. Did the superintendent now resile from a number of serious allegations he had made about Ms O’Sullivan?
Mr Taylor’s lawyer Michael O’Higgins found it hard to give the chairman the answers he wanted.
In reality, any case Supt Taylor had looks to be in some peril as far as the tribunal is concerned. Ms O’Sullivan continues her evidence today.
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