Disclosures Tribunal: Journalist advised against publication of Paul Williams' McCabe articles

A journalist with the Irish Independent has told the Disclosures Tribunal she advised against the publication of a series of articles by her colleague Paul Williams.

Disclosures Tribunal: Journalist advised against publication of Paul Williams' McCabe articles

Update 5pm: A journalist with the Irish Independent has told the Disclosures Tribunal she advised against the publication of a series of articles by her colleague Paul Williams.

Dearbhail McDonald was asked to stress test the articles which stemmed from an interview with Ms D who made allegations of abuse against Maurice McCabe which the DPP rejected.

Earlier, three journalists from the Irish Examiner claimed privilege, and would not say if they were negatively briefed by senior gardaí about Sgt McCabe.

In March 2014, Paul Williams interviewed Ms D – who raised concerns about the garda investigation into her allegations against Maurice McCabe.

The DPP directed no prosecution and said even if what was alleged had occurred, it did not constitute abuse.

Dearbhail McDonald was asked to stress test Mr Williams’ story in her capacity as legal affairs editor, and she eventually advised against publishing it.

An editorial decision was made to publish the series of articles in due course, and Ms D and Maurice McCabe were anonymised.

Earlier three journalists from the Irish Examiner claimed journalistic privilege over conversations they had with senior gardaí.

Daniel McConnell, Cormac O’Keeffe and Juno McEnroe declined to answer questions about their dealings with former Garda Press Officer Dave Taylor and would not confirm or deny if they’d been negatively briefed by him about Maurice McCabe.

Daniel McConnell arriving at the Disclosures Tribunal today. Pic: Gareth Chaney Collins
Daniel McConnell arriving at the Disclosures Tribunal today. Pic: Gareth Chaney Collins

Earlier: Tribunal chairman: 'Not conceivable' based on current evidence that reporters were negatively briefed on McCabe

By Gerard Cunningham

The chairman of the Disclosures Tribunal has said it is not conceivable based on the evidence he has heard so far that journalists were negatively briefed about whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe by senior garda officers.

"I regard it as not conceivable that there was any such communication on the state of evidence as it now exists," Mr Justice Peter Charleton said.

This morning, on day 92 of the inquiry, the tribunal heard evidence from two Irish Examiner journalists who both claimed privilege in relation to any conversations they may have had with confidential sources.

Juno McEnroe (left) and Cormac O'Keefe arriving at the Disclosures Tribunal today. Pic: Collins.
Juno McEnroe (left) and Cormac O'Keefe arriving at the Disclosures Tribunal today. Pic: Collins.

Security correspondent Cormac O'Keeffe told the tribunal that he felt obliged to claim journalistic privilege.

"My overriding obligation is not to do anything that could endanger the flow of information from sources to journalists either now or in the future," Mr O'Keeffe said.

The chairman said he felt "disturbed" that a journalist could refuse to answer questions at the tribunal about what sources said, and could write an article the following day based on what sources said.

"This is a bit like a crossword puzzle spending the whole morning trying to work out what people are saying to me," Mr Charleton said.

The tribunal is looking at allegations by Supt David Taylor that he was directed when he was garda press officer to smear Sgt McCabe in relation to a false allegation of sexual offending. Former commissioners Martin Callinan and Nóirín O'Sullivan deny there was any smear campaign.

The DPP directed no prosecution after a garda investigation into allegations by Miss D in 2006, saying no evidence of a crime was disclosed.

Mr O'Keeffe said he believed he had heard "bits of gossip" about Sgt McCabe around February 2014, when he first wrote about the penalty point scandal.

"There was no reference to a child. The first reference was in relation to a sexual allegation generally," Mr O'Keeffe said.

Asked if he had heard rumours from anyone other than journalists, Mr O'Keeffe said he was unable to comment on anything that may or may not identify a source.

"My reaction initially was to be very cautious about this snatch of information that I heard," Mr O'Keeffe said.

Mr O'Keeffe said there was still an obligation on a journalist not to reveal a source, even when an alleged source had waived any privilege or confidentiality.

Mr O'Keeffe said there was also a danger that if a journalist confirmed somebody was not a source, then that narrowed down who a source could be, which could lead to identification.

John Ferry BL formally put it to Mr O'Keeffe that his client Supt David Taylor had negatively briefed Mr O'Keeffe about Sgt McCabe.

"I'm unable to say anything that may or may not identify a source," Mr O'Keeffe said.

John Fitzgerald BL, on behalf of former commissioners Mr Callinan and Ms O'Sullivan said it was unfair to his client that Mr O'Keeffe refused to answer questions.

Earlier, Irish Examiner political correspondent Juno McEnroe said he wanted to "correct the record" about a letter sent to the tribunal last year in which solicitors said he did not have any information relevant to the terms of reference.

Mr McEnroe said the letter was incorrect, and should have stated that he would be claiming privilege and could not confirm or deny he had any information of relevance to the tribunal.

"All I can say is that the letter is incorrect and sent in error. I sought advice and it was close to deadline for sending in, and I regret that it was sent," Mr McEnroe said.

In an interview with tribunal investigators in April 2018, Mr McEnroe said he had no knowledge of any involvement by former commissioners O'Sullivan or Callinan or any other senior member of An Garda Síochána in negative briefings.

Mr McEnroe said a commissioner or assistant commissioner would be senior officers, and that he would not have regarded a superintendent as a senior officer.

Ms Kathleen Leader, BL for the tribunal asked Mr McEnroe if he had any evidence of a senior member, including a superintendent, discrediting Sgt McCabe.

"In relation to Supt Taylor I cannot answer questions in relation to that for fear of disclosing information relating to a source, or sources," Mr McEnroe said.

Mr McEnroe said he had not become aware of sexual allegations against Sgt McCabe until after July 2014. The tribunal chairman said that Supt Taylor was no longer press officer after June 2014.

The chairman said that it therefore followed "as night follows day" that Supt Taylor did not brief Mr McEnroe.

Mr McEnroe said that when Sgt McCabe came to Leinster House to give evidence to the Public Accounts Committee it was unprecedented, and a "David and Goliath moment".

"I do remember around that period, and this was more gossip, prattle, that somebody raised a question mark over Sgt McCabe," Mr McEnroe said.

"I then endeavoured to look into that, and I was satisfied that he was a credible person," Mr McEnroe said.

"I just remember there were question marks raised, is he a trustworthy person," Mr McEnroe said.

Mr McEnroe said that sources were "the bread and butter" of journalism. "If we don't have those sources it's much more difficult to get stories," Mr McEnroe said.

"I believe it's the right of the journalist to maintain that privilege even above the right of the person who waived it," Mr McEnroe said.

Maurice McCabe at an earlier sitting of tribunal
Maurice McCabe at an earlier sitting of tribunal

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