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'The beginning of the end': After McCabe, Tribunal now poised to enter most crucial weeks

Maurice McCabe spoke this week. Here’s what he had to say.

Clockwise from top left: Supt David Taylor, Martin Callinan, Nóirín O'Sullivan, and Maurice McCabe.
Clockwise from top left: Supt David Taylor, Martin Callinan, Nóirín O'Sullivan, and Maurice McCabe.
Image: Rollingnews.ie

IT MAY NOT be at the pace the judge desires, but the Disclosures Tribunal is still progressing towards its conclusion, with each week it sits delving further into the alleged smear campaign by garda management against Maurice McCabe.

During the week, the Tribunal got to hear from its main protagonist as McCabe himself took to the witness box.

Getting emotional at times, the whistleblower got the chance to publicly say how it’s felt to be subjected to an alleged smear campaign over the course of many years.

His evidence touched upon many of the currents that run right through the whole breadth and scope of the Tribunal, so here’s a recap of what he had to say about the most important topics:

‘Not a sexual assault, or indeed an assault’

An allegation of sexual abuse was made against McCabe in December 2006, with the claim that he had inappropriately touched a girl years previously.

That matter was investigated and in April 2007, the Director of Public Prosecutions determined that were was insufficient evidence to pursue the matter.

The DPP’s directions fully exonerate McCabe. It said: “Even if there wasn’t a doubt over her credibility, the incident that she describes does not amount to a sexual assault or indeed an assault.”

Despite his accuser being the daughter of a colleague at Bailieboro Garda Station, McCabe told the Tribunal he received a great deal of support from colleagues over the matter.

He said: “All the senior management of Cavan-Monaghan. After the issue arose in December they rang me and they were, you know, they were just saying to me that, you know, there is nothing there, Maurice, you know, absolutely, but I had to wait until I was interviewed to see that. But I had great support; Colm Rooney, all the superintendents and the inspectors and the guards in Bailieboro.”

On 11 April, McCabe received a phone call from State solicitor Rory Hayden who informed of the direction. “I felt great. I was extremely happy,” he told the Tribunal about receiving the directions.

One thing he said he wasn’t happy with, however, is how the matter was conveyed to him by the investigating officer, Inspector Noel Cunningham.

“Well I was working with him since 5 April and I was working with him every day, we were at lunch and coffee and court, and I did feel that if he had the directions earlier, I should have been told,” he said.

And I was annoyed at the fact that I had to ring him on the 23rd, looking for the directions.

During that call on 23 April, McCabe said he didn’t want to convey to Cunningham that he already knew the DPP directions.

For the DPP and investigating gardaí, this matter was very much “case closed” as of April 2007.

That’s not where the story of the Ms D allegation ends, however.

‘Failing through no fault of my own’

After the Ms D allegation, McCabe had two public confrontations with the woman and her mother in October 2007.

A month later he made a complaint to his superior officer at Bailieboro, Superintendent Mick Clancy about the quality of an investigation that had been conducted earlier in the year.

McCabe was asked this week: “This complaint that you made on the 15 November of 2007 to Superintendent Clancy, this wasn’t related to anything else, is that right?”

“No, it wasn’t,” McCabe affirmed, saying he had read a number of files ahead of a court date and found defects within them. That garda in question received a reprimand.

In January 2008, however, McCabe raised a number of other complaints to Clancy about the quality and conduct at the station.

misconduct mccabe

McCabe went on to say in a letter to Clancy: “I have tried and attempted to address all the issues, but I am failing through no fault of my own. The above seems to be the acceptable standard in Bailieboro and I am receiving no help addressing same.

I cannot put up with the situation any longer and under the Health and Safety Act I request an hour meeting with you at your convenience to discuss the matters to see what process you can put in place to deal with the issues.

McCabe maintained to the Tribunal that matters related to the D affair were wholly separate to the allegations he was making about misconduct at the station.

To try to settle the D matters, McCabe said that Clancy told him to write a letter “putting his case forward” for the D family to be given the DPP directions exonerating him.

“He felt sorry for me, I think,” McCabe said. “He asked me to put a good case forward, and he would do what he was able to do.”

Here’s what he wrote in the letter:

dpp directions

It was put to McCabe that, in the wider context of him making complaints and feeling he wasn’t getting the appropriate support from Clancy, this suggestion from Clancy came somewhat as a “bolt from the blue”.

The context of this letter in February 2008 is that McCabe is suggesting that Clancy told him to do it so he could try get the DPP directions given to the Ds and McCabe.

But less than a month later, on 11 March it was Clancy himself who told McCabe that it couldn’t be done.

McCabe told the Tribunal: “And he advised me. He said to me, in relation to the minute, I was going to do it for you in relation to the Ds, he says I can’t really do it now and I just said okay.”

It was put to McCabe that it couldn’t have been Clancy’s idea at all to “put his case forward for the DPP directions”, given that it was Clancy who ultimately told him it couldn’t be done.

Mr Justice Peter Charleton intervened to ask the same question: “But I just can’t understand how Superintendent Clancy would come up with the notion that out of sympathy for you he wanted you to ask him to write a letter in relation to why the DPP’s directions should be distributed to both sides, that is the bit I can’t understand.”

Furthermore, McCabe had written to Clancy on 4 March 2008 to say that he was stepping down as sergeant of Bailieboro Garda Station because of the lack of support he said he received to address the problems he had identified.

Interestingly, McCabe had recorded his meeting with Clancy on 11 March, but says he hadn’t recorded the section where they discussed the matters related to Ms D.

Here’s a portion of the transcript of that meeting, where he explains why he’s stepping down as sergeant at Bailieboro.

clancy

‘A kick in the teeth’ – internal garda review

McCabe made a formal complaint against Clancy in April 2008. In it, he alleged “harassment, bullying, discrimination and victimisation” from Clancy and garda management to him. In the same complaint, he also raised the issues around the low standards in Bailieboro.

The subsequent internal investigation and its findings would come to be known as the Byrne/McGinn report.

In the background of this investigation going on, McCabe filled in on some of the attitudes towards him that he faced. One example was a Facebook post that was shared referring to “Maurice the Rat” in 2009.

The Byrne/McGinn report upheld 11 of his 42 allegations, although McCabe had reservations about how they’d conducted the inquiry.

Although that investigation upheld a number of his complaints, a circular was sent out to stations in the Cavan-Monaghan district on 4 July 2011 by then-Chief Superintendent Colm Rooney, saying that there were no systemic failures in management or administration of Bailieboro district.

Only “minor procedural issues” were identified according to the notice.

McCabe told the Tribunal: “Yeah, it was a kick in the teeth really, you know.”

McCabe would later go on to make a number of more serious allegations alongside his claims of misconduct at Bailieboro, alleging corruption against senior officers including then-Commissioner Martin Callinan.

However, this allegation of corruption wasn’t in relation to the common definition of the word. McCabe said this week that what he was alleging against Callinan in 2012 was closer to “negligence” or “malpractice”.

The O’Higgins Commission report in 2016 would go on to find that his allegations against these most senior of gardaí were “unfounded” and “hurtful”.

McCabe said that he made these allegations primarily because Garda HQ stood over the circular defending the conduct of gardaí in the Bailieboro.

Martin Callinan & Penalty Points

Although McCabe had been highlighting what he saw as deficiencies within the force for many years by this point, it wasn’t until the issue of penalty points came to light that he was thrust into the public’s attention.

Here’s what he had to say about it:

Yeah, but I think the penalty points, I think that really hit hard with everybody in the force; in other words, I shouldn’t — I shouldn’t have brought it up.
The issue that I brought forward in relation to penalty points, it was on the practice, what was happening. And a guard in Mullingar made a complaint to me that he had a car stopped and the driver was arrogant, he issued a fixed charge notice, but some inspector then in another part of the country hit the button, terminated it. And when I looked it up, I could see a pattern of the same driver was caught a number of times around the country, and a certain inspector was hitting the button and pressing it.
Now, if I was to do it over again, I would never, never have highlighted the penalty points, because it was that and that stage when, you know, when I got — I started to get all the hassle.

Prior to McCabe appearing before the Public Accounts Committee on the issue of penalty points, Martin Callinan was probed by TDs before the committee in January 2014.

During it, he described the actions of whistleblowers coming forward as “disgusting”.

Addressing the Tribunal, McCabe said: “I think after that comment I think the flood gates were opened, you know. It was hard to take. It’s extremely hard to take.”

A few months later, the D affair returned to prominence for McCabe after a series of articles by journalist Paul Williams appeared in the Irish Independent.

These articles were based on interviews with Ms D – with all names anonymised – and contained details of the alleged sexual assault.

“I knew exactly who he was pointing at,” McCabe said. “Pointing at me.

Sure, it was awful. I mean, I have been cleared, completely, and I should have been left alone… Well, I knew, I can’t prove it, but I knew it was in relation to what I was doing, in relation to penalty points.

O’Higgins Commission

When Martin Callinan resigned as commissioner in 2014, and Nóirín O’Sullivan took over, the new commissioner offered supports to McCabe at a time when he felt there was a “lack of meaningful local intervention and support”.

He said: “It was difficult to take. Em, I mean, at that stage I didn’t care who was blanking me or who was parking close beside me or what they were shouting or roaring out a window, but there were a few incidents that were a bit nasty.”

From a situation where efforts were being made to show McCabe was being listened to and supported, the beginning of the O’Higgins Commission – looking into allegations he’d made as far back as 2007 – in May 2015 would put paid to all of that in McCabe’s mind.

In a letter setting out the basis for which Nóirín O’Sullivan’s counsel would challenge McCabe’s motivation and credibility, a section of it contained an error. It said that McCabe had admitted he made his first allegation against Clancy because the DPP directions weren’t given.

McCabe told the Tribunal: “I mean, that was incredible. It put us on our toes, it put me on my toes.

And then, Mr. Chairman, then, in relation then to each of the modules, every module I was being kind of attacked, so to speak… But you can see that I was being blamed for everything, on the transcripts. I was getting, I was getting all the hard questions.
I always got on with ex-Commissioner O’Sullivan, I supported her when she was appointed. But I was taken aback at the letter which was written, as you said, Judge, it’s nonsense.

This strategy from O’Sullivan caused McCabe to change his opinion, writing to her the following month: “As you are aware, my role, rank and work have become extremely difficult due to you. I am very much concerned, as is our family.”

‘Horrific… life-changing’

Against the backdrop of the Martin Callinan “disgusting” comment and the O’Higgins Commission, an error from a counsellor for Ms D in 2013 led to a completely different – and far more serious – allegation of rape being put on file.

McCabe then received a letter at the very beginning of 2016 from Tusla containing this erroneous allegation.

The letter said: “On one occasion between 1998 and 1999 at the home of Maurice McCabe, Ms D alleged that Maurice McCabe sexually abused her. The abuse alleged involved digital penetration and the victim was aged six to seven years old.”

This is how McCabe described to the Tribunal receiving the letter: “Horrific, horrific. I mean, in relation to the Ms. D, it was a life-changing matter, but this one was just incredible, to open a letter like that and to be accused of what I was accused of. We didn’t know what to do that night… And it wasn’t until six months that they admitted an error.”

The John McGuinness meeting

It is now we get to the crux of the alleged smear campaign, from McCabe’s account of it.

In May 2016, McCabe met Fianna Fáil TD, and former chairperson of the Public Accounts Committee, John McGuinness at the Merrion Hotel in Dublin.

When McCabe was asked what McGuinness told him at that meeting, he grew visibly upset and proceedings had to be stopped for a number of minutes.

Here’s what he said, when asked the question again:

He told me that he met the former Commissioner Martin Callinan at the Red Cow Inn [the alleged meeting took place at Bewley's], or that pub, and he said that I wasn’t to be trusted and he said that I had sexually abused all my children and my nieces… And he also said that he grabbed his arm as he was getting out of the car and said, ‘It’s very serious, it’s very serious.’
I remember driving home that evening, an hour afterwards, and I didn’t know which way I drove home, was it the M3 or was it the old road. I didn’t say anything until I got home and I told Lorraine, and I was unsure of what to do.

Speaking at the Tribunal, counsel for John McGuinness said that the TD agrees with McCabe’s version of what was said at this meeting.

The David Taylor meeting

This is the most crucial meeting of all.

After the May meeting with McGuinness, McCabe said he was determined to find out the source of these “rumours” about him. After reading an article in the Irish Examiner by Mick Clifford, McCabe says he got in touch with him and got the details of Superintendent David Taylor.

Taylor was suspended from An Garda Síochána at that time, having previously held the role as head of the garda press office.

After speaking to Taylor’s wife Michelle on a number of occasions, McCabe visited their home on 20 September 2016.

After exchanging pleasantries, this is what McCabe described as happening: “And just with that, he just said to me, ‘Look… I destroyed you’. And I says, ‘What do you mean you destroyed me?’ He says, ‘I destroyed you.’ ‘But explain what is it, is it about all these rumours about me?’ ‘Yeah,’ he says, ‘it was’.

But he said that he orchestrated, he said that there was an orchestrated campaign to attack me and he said it was in the form of whispering, of phone calls, of texts, of text messages.
He said he was ordered to do this on the authority of ex-Commissioner Martin Callinan. He told me that — he said to me, I never wrote the text messages, he says, all the text — Martin Callinan, he says, always wrote the text messages [to senior gardaí, journalists and politicians], and he says, I was asked just to send them on.
And then he told me then that he would always send one to ex-Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan, and that she would always reply, I think the word “perfect”.

McCabe also said that Taylor referred to O’Sullivan as “the pusher” in this alleged smear campaign. He said that every time he received press coverage, Taylor said Callinan would make contact and give directions to “do him down, use your phone and do him down, he has to be buried”.

McCabe said Taylor told him that he sent “hundreds” of text messages, although it is crucial to note that Taylor himself disagrees with aspects of McCabe’s account – primarily that these texts would refer to the Ms D allegations and that O’Sullivan was “the pusher”.

Beginning of the end

After the evidence of McCabe, the Disclosures Tribunal is now poised to enter its most crucial weeks.

The error from the counsellor is accepted as genuine from all parties. The legal strategy at the O’Higgins Commission is not central to the overall alleged smear campaign.

It is what Martin Callinan is alleged to have directed against McCabe that is the key to this whole thing.

McCabe has given his account. Before Mr Justice Charleton can make his judgement, he’ll have to hear from David Taylor, John McGuinness and Callinan, himself.

That’ll happen in the next few weeks and months.

After McCabe’s evidence, Judge Charleton said the Tribunal is now at “the beginning of the end”.

The Tribunal will have surely have a few more twists and turns before it reaches that end.

Read: ‘Horrific’, ‘destroyed me’, ‘bury him’: An emotional Maurice McCabe gives his side of the story

Read: ‘It would be hard to invent a story like that’: Maurice McCabe finishes evidence at Tribunal

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Sean Murray

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