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Disclosures Tribunal finds Martin Callinan and former press officer ran 'campaign' against Maurice McCabe

The latest report of the Disclosures Tribunal has been published.

Updated Oct 11th 2018, 2:00 PM

  • The Disclosures Tribunal is “convinced” there was a “campaign of calumny” by former Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan against Maurice McCabe.
  • It found that this was “actively aided” by former garda press officer Superintendent Dave Taylor, but that he didn’t do it “under orders”. 
  • Callinan and Taylor were “in it together”, the Tribunal found. 
  • Maurice McCabe was “repulsively denigrated for being no more than a good citizen and police officer”.
  • There is “no credible evidence” that Nóirín O’Sullivan played any hand act or part in any campaign conducted by Commissioner Martin Callinan and by Superintendent David Taylor against Maurice McCabe.
  • Mistakes made at the O’Higgins Commission into earlier claims by McCabe “had nothing to do” with Nóirín O’Sullivan.
  • An Garda Síochána needs a “complete turn-around in their attitude” which must be led by senior management.

THE DISCLOSURES TRIBUNAL has found that there was a “campaign of calumny” against Maurice McCabe by former Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan, that was “actively aided” by his press officer Superintendent David Taylor.

In a clear, punchy style over the course of 400+ pages, Mr Justice Peter Charleton delves into scandals that were laid bare over 100 days of hearings at Dublin Castle. 

The Tribunal was tasked with looking into allegations that there had been a smear campaign against McCabe, orchestrated by senior gardaí.

This calumny – the making of false and defamatory statements in order to damage a person’s reputation – involved Callinan speaking in the most “derogatory way” about McCabe to two TDs and the Comptroller and Auditor General, the Tribunal found.

It found that Martin Callinan told Fianna Fáil TD John McGuinness that McCabe had sexually abused members of his own family.

John McGuinness – who formerly headed the Public Accounts Committee – told the Tribunal that Martin Callinan had made a comment about the “other fella fiddles with kids” in reference to Sergeant Maurice McCabe.

He also said that Callinan told him in the infamous car park meeting that McCabe had sexually abused members of his own family.

Judge Charleton said: “The conversations as described by John McGuinness TD took place.”

In regard to a conversation that journalist Philip Boucher Hayes said took place in RTÉ studios, Charleton found that Callinan denigrated the character of Maurice McCabe.

Boucher Hayes had said that Callinan told him that McCabe had “psychological” and “psychiatric” issues and had done terrible things. 

“The evidence establishes that there was a meeting of minds between the two police officers – Taylor and Callinan – as to how Maurice McCabe was to be viewed,” Charleton wrote. “On an overall view of the evidence, this confirms that Commissioner Martin Callinan was not alone in his attempts to denigrate the character of Maurice McCabe. They were acting together.”

Garda response

In a statement this afternoon, Garda Commissioner Drew Harris said that An Garda Síochána “fully accepts” Charleton’s findings. He said that the report “makes for difficult reading for the organisation, but it is vital that we take it as an opportunity to change how we operate so we provide a professional and ethical service to the public”.

I fully agree with Mr Justice Charleton when he states that the obligation for members of An Garda Síochána is to the truth, society and the vulnerable, and not to the organisation.

Harris said he will be establishing a group to examine Mr Justice Charleton’s findings and to identify the lessons to be learnt and changes to be made.

He also said he welcomes and supports Mr Justice Charleton’s comments about Sergeant McCabe. “I acknowledge the difficult time he and his family have endured and I hope this chapter is drawing to a close,” said Harris. “I will ensure Sergeant McCabe and all Garda personnel referenced in the report receive appropriate supports.”

“I will ensure An Garda Síochána is a safe environment for people to raise issues or concerns. The organisation will improve by having an open and inclusive culture.

Dave Taylor

Mr Justice Peter Charleton savages David Taylor in the report.

Taylor had alleged that he conducted a smear campaign against Maurice McCabe on the say-so of Martin Callinan.

The judge wrote: “It is an utter mystery as to why Commissioner Martin Callinan could have decided to choose Superintendent David Taylor as his press officer. Both of them have given explanations for this decision: that David Taylor was talented, experienced, articulate and so on. He is not. All of this is just plain untrue.”

In one section, the judge accuses Taylor of “daft” evidence. He said:

The Tribunal is convinced that Superintendent David Taylor did more than merely inform some journalists that in the past there had been an investigation into Maurice McCabe and that the Director of Public Prosecutions had decided that there should be no prosecution and that he was consequently embittered. That is all he claims to have done. That is untrue.

Mr Justice Charleton said that he was convinced that Taylor gave a list of journalists “who were never briefed in order to mislead the Tribunal”.

He added: “While the tribunal cannot but regard it as probable that there are other journalists who have decided not to come forward and assist the public inquiry that the tribunal represents, despite having been briefed negatively by him, his attitude to his superior was likely to have been one of bluster and spoof which was eventually seen through.”

In another section, regarding an alleged interaction involving RTÉ journalist Philip Boucher Hayes and Martin Callinan, the Tribunal accuses Taylor of an “obvious deceit” in his evidence. 

On the issue of phones that would show evidence of smears against McCabe, Charleton said that Taylor “chose to present a public lie to the people of Ireland”.

“It was enthusiastically taken up,” he wrote. “Furthermore, it cast a pall of pretended deceit over the entire police force. Then no one knew better. Now, they do.”

Nóirín O’Sullivan 

In 2015, the O’Higgins Commission of Investigation was set up to look into allegations made by McCabe of wrongdoing and inconsistencies in garda investigations in the Cavan/Monaghan region.

The Tribunal was asked to examine whether Nóirín O’Sullivan relied on false sex abuse allegations to denigrate McCabe at this commission.

Mr Justice Charleton roundly dismissed such a possibility.

“The central query in the term of reference is whether this was done by Commissioner O’Sullivan to discredit him,” he said. “Nothing like that ever happened. In fact, some mistakes were made, but these had nothing whatsoever to do with sexual abuse.

Insofar as mistakes occurred, or were left uncorrected and subsequently should have been corrected in later submissions, these had nothing to do with Commissioner O’Sullivan.

The Tribunal also found that O’Sullivan had “no hand, act or part” in the “campaign of calumny” against McCabe.

Tusla

Charleton was critical of Tusla’s handling of the affair that saw a completely false claim of rape – that had never been made against McCabe – being put on his file.

“A public body, paid for by the taxpayer, has a fundamental duty of self-scrutiny in pursuit of the highest standards,” he said. “The administration of Tusla was sorely lacking in application and in dedication to duty.”

The result of failure to face the facts, of a complete lack of black box thinking that demands to precisely know when an aircraft has gone down why that happened, has been justifiable public disquiet together with a gigantic expenditure of public money.
This happened through not facing up to the problem and not being forthright about mistakes internal to Tusla.

Maurice McCabe

“What has been unnerving about more than 100 days of hearings in this tribunal is that a person who stood up for better standards in our national police force, Sergeant Maurice McCabe, and who exemplified hard work in his own calling, was repulsively denigrated for being no more than a good citizen and police officer,” Charleton wrote in his conclusion. 

In investigating the calumny against him, other aspects of our national life have been laid bare. Within the pages of this report are detailed those women and men who have done their work well and who try every day, as police officers, social workers and administrators, to do their best. But not all. Not every person seeks either to uphold the highest standards or to strive for them through daily work.

“The question has to be asked as to why what is best, what demands hard work, is not the calling of every single person who takes on the job of service to Ireland. Worse still is the question of how it is that decent people, of whom Maurice McCabe emerges as a paradigm, are so shamefully treated when rightly they demand that we do better.”

In a statement this afternoon, Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan thanked Mr Justice Charleton, and said that his investigation “goes to the heart” of how the gardaí handle allegations of wrongdoing within the force.

He “fully endorses” the vindication of Sergeant Maurice McCabe and said McCabe had done the State a “considerable service”. 

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Sean Murray

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