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'And the other fella fiddles with kids. They’re the kind of f*****g headbangers I’m dealing with'

Fianna Fáil TD John McGuinness took to the witness box for another explosive day of testimony at the Disclosures Tribunal today.

Clockwise from top left: Maurice McCabe, Martin Callinan and John McGuinness TD
Clockwise from top left: Maurice McCabe, Martin Callinan and John McGuinness TD
Image: Rollingnews.ie

Updated 3.25pm

A FIANNA FÁIL TD has told the Disclosures Tribunal that former garda commissioner Martin Callinan told him that a garda whistleblower “fiddles with kids” and was “not to be trusted”.

John McGuinness was giving evidence today, as the Tribunal got back under way after a month break, and said that over the course of two days in January 2014, Callinan told him that the garda whistleblower was a sexual abuser and indicated that he may be facing criminal charges over his conduct.

Furthermore, McGuinness said that rumours to the effect that Maurice McCabe was a “sexual abuser” and a “paedophile” were widely heard around the corridors of Leinster House at the time.

McGuinness became involved in this through his role as chairperson as the Public Accounts Committee.

McCabe had come to him with evidence of misconduct and abuse within the penalty points system and, through his role as PAC chairman, McGuinness began to investigate these claims.

Speaking today, McGuinness told the Tribunal that “alongside the efforts of McCabe and others” to highlight these issues, “there was a further effort being made to spread gossip and rumour in relation to the character of McCabe, to insist he was not a credible individual to be listened to”.

These rumours were well known around Leinster House, but McGuinness said that after meeting McCabe he was satisfied the rumours had no foundation.

When it became clear that evidence had been brought forward to the PAC around these matters, Callinan wrote to McGuinness in November 2013 to raise the concerns he had about this garda data being handed over.

Having received legal advice, McGuinness said he was happy for the PAC to pursue its investigations with this data that McCabe had given.

On 23 January 2014, Callinan appeared before the committee over the scandal, and described the conduct of garda whistleblowers as “disgusting”.

After the hearing, McGuinness said he spoke to Callinan who immediately told him a derogatory story about Garda John Wilson before saying “and the other fella fiddles with kids. They’re the kind of fucking headbangers I’m dealing with.”

McGuinness said he took that comment to refer to Maurice McCabe.

For his part, Callinan denies ever saying this.

The very next day, McGuinness said Callinan urgently sought to arrange a meeting with him.

This meeting took place in the car park of Bewley’s Hotel in west Dublin. The TD said he assumed that the meeting would take place in the hotel itself but when he got there, the commissioner got into the passenger seat of his car.

Here’s what he says Callinan told him: “He [McCabe] had sexually abused family and an individual, he was not to be trusted, I had made a grave error in relation to PAC because of this. I could find myself in serious trouble.”

McGuinness said that Callinan indicated that there was a “file” on McCabe and that he would be facing criminal charges over such allegations. McCabe has never faced any such criminal charges that McGuinness said were referred to.

“To be quite honest, I was troubled,” McGuinness said. “Lots of questions ran through my mind about how it all had come to this, and what would happen from here.

Would the PAC be brought into disrepute because of these charges? There was a lot of worry, concern, and trouble over what he said to me.

After deliberating on what went on at the meeting, McGuinness said he decided that the PAC should press ahead with investigating the penalty points issue and hear from Maurice McCabe.

He said: “I had to take a judgement call. I’m glad that I did.”

McGuinness said that he didn’t tell fellow committee members about this car park meeting, but told party leader Micheál Martin about it a month later. Martin is due to give evidence at the Tribunal next week.

At various points of his evidence this morning, Callinan’s version of events that is completely at odds with that of McGuinness was put to him.

The Fianna Fáil TD repeatedly insisted, however, that his version of events was an accurate account of what happened.

Counsel for the Tribunal summed it up as Callinan and McGuinness giving a “completely different slant on the meeting” and that they “can’t be reconciled with each other”.

In the afternoon session, McGuinness detailed a meeting with former garda press officer Superintendent David Taylor and his wife in January 2017.

In it, the TD recalled Taylor telling him about he’d been directed to brief the media negatively about Maurice McCabe when he held the role of garda press officer.

He disagreed with counsel for Taylor on one crucial point, namely that Taylor had sent negative briefings about McCabe via text. McGuinness said he could recall Taylor saying that he had sent these via text message, but Taylor refutes that.

It is Taylor’s case that all his instructions were given verbally.

Exchanges began to grow testy between counsel for Martin Callinan and McGuinness, over the reasoning behind the car park meeting.

McGuinness will face further questioning from Callinan’s barrister tomorrow morning.

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Sean Murray

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