Former colleague claims senior editors at Irish Independent told her Maurice McCabe was a paedophile

Irish Independent editor Fionnán Sheahan told his colleague Anne Harris that garda whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe was a paedophile, the Charleton tribunal has been told.

Former colleague claims senior editors at Irish Independent told her Maurice McCabe was a paedophile

By Gerard Cunningham

Irish Independent editor Fionnán Sheahan told his colleague Anne Harris that garda whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe was a paedophile, the Charleton tribunal has been told.

The tribunal is examining allegations by Supt Taylor that he was directed to brief the media negatively on whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe by former commissioner Martin Callinan, and that Ms O'Sullivan was aware of this. Both former commissioners deny this.

Ms Harris said that the conversation took place in September 2014 when she was editor of the Sunday Independent, and Mr Sheahan was group political editor at Independent Newspapers. Mr Sheahan denies the conversation took place.

Ms Harris said that rumours about Sgt McCabe were "pervasive" in INM offices, but were usually spoken of through euphemisms such as "interfering", or an "inappropriate interest in children".

When Mr Sheahan came to her after an editorial meeting and said "he's a paedophile" in reference to Sgt McCabe, she was "shocked at the use of the word, I'd never heard it used in relation to Sgt McCabe before.

"I thought Fionnán had chosen the most extreme word so I could know how serious it was," Ms Harris said.

"I think he thought that perhaps she doesn't really know the story and he was tipping me off," Ms Harris said.

Ms Harris said that Mr Sheahan was not a gossip, and would have been passing on information he thought she should know.

Irish Independent editor, Fionnán Sheahan
Irish Independent editor, Fionnán Sheahan

Ms Harris said that on another occasion Ian Mallon, then the Group News Editor at Independent Newspapers, said there was "more to Sgt McCabe than meets the eye", and asked, "do you know about McCabe and children”?

Rossa Fanning SC, for INM, Mr Mallon and Mr Sheahan, said his clients would be denying the alleged comments when they gave evidence.

Ms Harris went on to say that it was "possible and likely" that Mr Mallon may have heard rumours from journalist Paul Williams, who had interviewed Miss D, and who made an allegation against Sgt McCabe in 2006. the DPP directed no prosecution following a subsequent garda investigation.

Ms Harris said that she would not identify a freelance journalist who said there were rumours about Sgt McCabe at an editorial conference, as there had to be "some sort of privilege" regarding conferences, to allow journalists to speak freely about stories.

She said that a freelance journalist was in a much more vulnerable position that a senior editor.

Ms Harris said she believed journalists were being used "for nefarious purposes to spread rumour", and people were abusing journalistic privilege .

Ms Harris said she was not bitter and did not bear a grudge to her former employers at INM, and she said she had no beef with Mr Sheahan or Mr Mallon.

Maurice McCabe.
Maurice McCabe.

In other evidence journalist Gemma O'Doherty said that she first heard rumours about Sgt McCabe when former garda John Wilson called her and said "you won't believe what they're saying about him now”.

Ms O'Doherty said she did not give the rumours any credence, but she did speak to Maurice McCabe about them.

"I had no time for anyone who was suggesting this, I knew it to be utterly untrue," Ms O'Doherty said.

Ms O'Doherty said she had no proof that a copy of the garda file had been given to Mr Williams, but it was her understanding and belief.

Ms O'Doherty confirmed to barrister Michael McDowell, representing Sgt McCabe, that the sergeant was not the source of a story about former commissioner Martin Callinan having penalty points wiped.

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