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Garda civil servant testifies that he did not say gardaí were 'going after' Maurice McCabe

The Disclosures Tribunal heard testimony which directly contradicted that of John Barrett last week.

Cyril Dunne at Dublin Castle today
Cyril Dunne at Dublin Castle today
Image: Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie

A RETIRED GARDA civil servant has denied telling a former colleague that the garda legal team was “going after” garda whistleblower Sergeant Maurice McCabe.

Last week the garda human resources executive John Barrett told the Charleton Tribunal that in May 2015 his then boss, Cyril Dunne, told him “we’re going after him” [McCabe] at the O’Higgins Commission of Investigation.

The commission, which sat in private in 2015, investigated complaints made by McCabe about certain policing matters in Cavan and serious allegations against senior officers including then Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan.

The tribunal is currently examining whether unjustified grounds were inappropriately relied upon by the former garda commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan to discredit McCabe at the O’Higgins commission.

Today, Dunne testified that he never made the remark attributed to him by Mr Barrett.

“That is absolutely my evidence,” the former chief administrative officer told the tribunal.

Dunne, a civilian who held a post equivalent to that of a deputy garda commissioner, said that Commissioner O’Sullivan was “generally very concerned with a duty of care to everyone, including Sergeant McCabe”, in the months leading up to the first hearings at the O’Higgins Commission.

“She was very keen to have the commission establish what the real truth was,” Dunne said.

He was asked by tribunal barrister Diarmaid McGuinness SC if O’Sullivan had ever spoken about challenging McCabe’s motivation, integrity, or credibility before the commission.

“The opposite in fact. The impression I had was she was very much supporting him,” Mr Dunne said.

He added that he was not involved in operational policing issues, or in preparations for the O’Higgins Commission.

I didn’t have a particular view around the commission at all. It was happening around me but it wasn’t something I was engaged with at all.

Dunne said he did not recall a meeting with the commissioner and John Barrett on either 12 May or 13 May 2015, the days before the commission’s first day of hearings.

Barrett told the tribunal that he believed Wednesday 13 May was the most likely date on which Dunne made the alleged remark to him. Dunne continues his evidence tomorrow.

Photo: RollingNews.ie Marion Mannion at Dublin Castle today Source: Leah Farrell

Earlier Marion Mannion, a special advisor to Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald, told the tribunal the minister was “very firm” that the issues raised by McCabe needed to be resolved, and hoped the O’Higgins Commission would achieve this.

Mannion said the minister and the Department of Justice believed it would not be appropriate to comment publicly on the commission’s work once it began until its work was complete.

She said that she might have had discussions with Fitzgerald about queries from RTÉ reporter John Burke ahead of a ‘This Week’ interview on 5 July 2015 about McCabe and the O’Higgins Commission, and it would be her practice to discuss likely questions with the programme ahead of the interview, but she could not recall details.

She said that if RTÉ had raised the commission, she would have informed them that the minister could not answer questions about it while its work was ongoing.

“That wouldn’t stop them asking of course, but we wouldn’t be answering,” Mannion said.

Mannion also said that notes apparently relating to a meeting between the minister and the garda commissioner on 18 May 2016, as the O’Higgins report was being published, were an “aide memoire” of things she was told, and she had not attended the meeting.

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Gerard Cunningham

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