The former head of the Department of Justice denies it was inappropriate that the ex-Garda commissioner met a Dáil committee chairman to argue against a whistleblower giving evidence.
The official, Brian Purcell, also told the Disclosures Tribunal that former commissioner Martin Callinan “never” made attempts to smear Sgt McCabe.
The tribunal is investigating if there was a campaign by senior gardaí to discredit the whistleblower and has heard claims Mr Callinan spread child sex abuse rumours about Sgt McCabe.
Mr Purcell said, at the time of the penalty points scandal in 2013, he asked Mr Callinan about Sgt McCabe’s background. He was “curious if there was anything out of the ordinary”.
The tribunal heard that the commissioner told him of allegations against Sgt McCabe which had been investigated, that a file had gone to the DPP but there was no case.
“He told me in a manner of fact way,” said Mr Purcell.
He said he was not interested in what “motivated” Sgt McCabe but in facts around the penalty points controversy. He said he had concerns about private data being released and about Sgt McCabe appearing in January 2014 at the Public Accounts Committee, which was investigating the matter.
After Mr Callinan appeared at the PAC and was criticised for calling whistleblowers “disgusting”, Mr Purcell texted him saying “well done, exceptional performance under fire”.
Mr Purcell said he did this out of solidarity after the Garda chief had a “tough” time being “buffeted and tumbled with questions from all sides” for five hours at PAC.
He was also asked about calling the commissioner that evening, where the two spoke about the senior garda meeting PAC chairman John McGuinness the next day over Sgt McCabe.
Mr Purcell told the tribunal he did not think this arrangement was “inappropriate” but it was “unusual”.
Both Mr Purcell and Mr Callinan did not want the whistleblower appearing at PAC.
Mr McGuinness met the garda chief in a car park on January 24. The TD alleges the commissioner told him Sgt McCabe was not be trusted and was a child sex abuser. Mr Callinan denies this. Mr Purcell and Mr Callinan spoke on the phone after the meeting. While there is no note of this conversation, Mr Purcell said the commissioner told him he did not get much “traction” on trying to suggest an alternative about the whistleblower appearing at PAC.
However, Mr Purcell said the commissioner “most definitely” did not speak to him about sexual abuse allegations during that call.
Tribunal chairman Mr Justice Peter Charleton asked Mr Purcell several times to describe the reaction from Garda headquarters and the commissioner to Sgt McCabe and the penalty points scandal. Mr Purcell conceded that he and Mr Callinan were “unhappy” about the scandal but that the commissioner did “not attempt to smear” Sgt McCabe’s reputation.
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin was also asked yesterday what he knew of the car park meeting. He said he was told of it by Mr McGuinness and that he was “taken aback” by the alleged remarks about Sgt McCabe.
“To accuse anyone of child abuse is probably the worst accusation you can make against any individual,” said Mr Martin. He said he was reluctant to repeat the information to anyone else, because of the damage such an allegation could do.
Under cross-examination, he insisted he was not mistaken in his recollection that a party TD had told him that Mr Callinan had smeared Sgt McCabe.
Following the publication of an article by Paul Williams, Mr Martin said he was subsequently asked if he was prepared to meet with a woman, Miss D, and agreed. She came to his Leinster House office in April 2014.
“I took the matter very seriously, a young woman coming before you and making this allegation. She said she had been abused. Her main concern was that it was not properly investigated properly.”
Mr Martin petitioned the Taoiseach on Miss D’s behalf, and also spoke to Sgt McCabe, who told him the complaint had been investigated fully by the DPP.
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