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Wednesday 29 November 2023 Dublin: 2°C
disclosures tribunal

Gardaí alleged Maurice McCabe said he would 'bring this job to its knees'

The Tribunal heard from the gardaí’s head of legal affairs today.

File Photo Taoiseach Leo Varadkar praises Garda Maurice McCabe on the Marian Finucane on her radio show today. ENDS. Laura Hutton / Maurice McCabe Laura Hutton / /

Updated 6.05pm

THE DISCLOSURES TRIBUNAL has heard that, during a meeting involving senior gardaí and counsel for Nóirín O’Sullivan, it was alleged that Maurice McCabe had told another senior member of the force “I will bring this job to its knees”.

The Tribunal is currently hearing witnesses give evidence about the legal strategy used by then-Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan at the O’Higgins Commission, an inquiry which looked at allegations of malpractice and corruption made by McCabe in the Cavan-Monaghan division.

It has already heard that the instructions given to O’Sullivan’s legal team was to impugn the motivation and credibility of McCabe at this commission.

Today, the Tribunal heard further evidence from Kenneth Ruane, the head of legal affairs at An Garda Síochana.

He outlined how, prior to 11 May 2015, challenging McCabe in this manner was not the legal strategy being adopted.

Prior to that, O’Sullivan herself attended meetings with McCabe and an independent external expert had been appointed to investigate claims made by McCabe of bullying and harassment in the force.

This showed how seriously and sensitively the force would deal with issues such as those McCabe was highlighting, the Tribunal heard.

The last meeting Ruane attended regarding the upcoming O’Higgins Commission was on 11 May but, between that date and 15 May, that position had completely changed.

Ruane provided notes of that 11 May meeting, with attendees including Chief Superintendent Fergus Healy, who was acting as the garda liaison to the commission, Colm Smyth, who was senior counsel for Nóirín O’Sullivan, and Annmarie Ryan, from the Chief State Solicitor’s Office.


The whole case of the sexual assault allegation made against McCabe was brought up at this meeting, according to notes provided by both Ruane and Ryan.

Ruane maintained, however, that this information was conveyed by Superintendent Healy to Smyth and his colleagues for “background information” only.

It was put to Ruane that this information was irrelevant to what the O’Higgins Commission was looking at, namely factual accounts of cases in Cavan-Monaghan but he maintained that there were valid reasons for making counsel aware of this “background” information about McCabe.

“I can see why Chief Superintendent Healy would inform counsel about this,” he said. “If other witnesses make reference to it… If it came up and counsel didn’t know about it, they could probably criticise the liaison officer at that point.”

15/9/2014. New Garda Members Former Garda Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan

According to detailed notes provided by Annmarie Ryan of this meeting, reference was made to McCabe allegedly telling assistant commissioner Derek Byrne: “I will bring this job to its knees.”

It also references another garda whistleblower, John Wilson.  Notes say that Wilson was described at this meeting as a “union man” and that he and McCabe were “working together”.


However, Ruane maintained that at no point during this 11 May meeting was it indicated that instructions would be to challenge McCabe’s motivation based on this background information.

Commenting on how the subsequent strategy adopted would negatively affect previous efforts from the gardaí to address McCabe’s issues, Ruane said: “I certainly envisaged that the reaching out that occurred to Sergeant McCabe – in January, February, March, April – I didn’t see how that could continue.

It was going to create significant difficulties in that respect. With hindsight, perhaps I should have contacted the commissioner and said ‘you really need to think about this’.

Under questioning from McCabe’s counsel Michael McDowell SC, Ruane said that given the Commissioner’s previous stance, whatever changed in those few days before the commission “must have been significant to give these instructions” to impugn his credibility.

Questioning Ruane last, Mr Justice Peter Charleton noted that, based on the notes of this 11 May meeting, the overall tone of it suggests that Maurice McCabe was viewed as a  “bitter man” who couldn’t “let it go” concerning the refusal to hand over the DPP’s instructions regarding the sexual abuse allegation years previously.

The DPP’s investigation found no basis to the claims, and McCabe had wanted both himself and the D family to be given these instructions so as to clarify what that investigation found, and to clear his name.

“I couldn’t make head nor tail of it”

After Ruane finished giving evidence, Annmarie Ryan from the Chief State Solicitor’s Office appeared before the Tribunal.

She described being assigned to act as solicitor for the garda commissioner in April 2015, and that getting the ball rolling on a legal strategy had already been delayed.

“Paul Fleming [her superior and divisional head] informed me he expected to hear from An Garda Síochana in January about seeking representation,” she said. “The delay from An Garda Síochana put us under serious pressure.”

Ryan also said that there was “no excuse” for such a delay when they knew the O’Higgins Commission was coming, and that she had said at the time she would “do her best to get up to speed on these matters”.

When discovery of materials were delivered to her on 7 May 2015, a week before the commission began, she realised she couldn’t send it on to the recently-appointed counsel for O’Sullivan.

“I had received discovery late on Thursday,” she said. “12 boxes. I remember Friday morning saying that I had material and how do I get it to you [counsel]?

I said I better open it up and see what’s in it. It ended up being returned to An Garda Síochana. I couldn’t make hear nor tail of it. You would have had to get on your hands and knees to go through it. I wasn’t giving it to counsel.

She told the Tribunal that it was counsel for Nóirín O’Sullivan, after a series of meeting starting with the one on 11 May 2015 referenced by Ruane, who advised challenging McCabe’s credibility at the commission before 15 May.

It was on this day that this strategy caused a row to erupt between counsel for McCabe, counsel for O’Sullivan and Mr Justice O’Higgins himself.

Ryan was also probed on a meeting on 12 May 2015, which had Superintendent Noel Cunningham in attendance.

The Tribunal has previously heard that a misreading of Cunningham’s report on a meeting with Maurice McCabe led O’Sullivan’s counsel to rely on something McCabe had actually never said.

She will be asked further questions about this when the Tribunal reconvenes this Wednesday morning.

Read: Garda watchdog ‘doesn’t have the staff to deal with whistleblower claims’

Read: ‘We are going after him’: Questions but few answers on explosive day at the Disclosures Tribunal