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Wednesday 8 February 2023 Dublin: 8°C
# disclosures tribunal
Solicitor for Nóirín O'Sullivan called questioning of Maurice McCabe's credibility 'political dynamite'
The Disclosures Tribunal heard evidence from solicitor Annmarie Ryan from the Chief State Solicitor’s Office

A SOLICITOR FROM the Chief State Solicitor’s Office has told the Charleton Tribunal that she had seen “trouble brewing” when barristers representing the garda commissioner said they were challenging the integrity of garda whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe at the O’Higgins inquiry.

The commission of inquiry headed by Judge Kevin O’Higgins was set up to look at allegations of garda malpractice made by Sgt McCabe.

In a note she took at the time, State solicitor Ann Marie Ryan wrote the words “Political dynamite!!” after senior counsel Colm Smyth raised the question of Sgt McCabe’s credibility and integrity. This was on the second day of evidence at the inquiry on Friday 15 May 2015.

“I thought it was highly political before I came on board, I could see trouble brewing,” Ms Ryan told the tribunal.

Ms Ryan said that she had hoped for a consultation with then Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan about her instructions to barristers at the tribunal. She said the barristers on the legal team had made themselves available, but the consultation did not happen.

She said she was told by Chief Supt Fergus Healy that the commissioner was busy and engaged with conferences at the time.

“I understand it’s a busy job,” Ms Ryan said.

Michael McDowell SC, representing Sgt McCabe, said there seemed to be a pattern at the O’Higgins inquiry of lines of questioning to suggest that his client, as sergeant in charge at Bailieboro Garda Station, was responsible for issues that he himself had highlighted in complaints.

Mr McDowell said in one instance, where a computer exhibit in a criminal case went missing, documents which indicated that Sgt McCabe had possession of the device were later found to be forged.

Tribunal chairman Mr Justice Peter Charleton said that Judge O’Higgins had found that Sergeant McCabe was not at fault in the cases he highlighted.

We anticipated that Sergeant McCabe’s legal team were going to raise this during Commissioner O’Sullivan’s evidence, and it did not happen.

Phone warning

Earlier, the chairman of Tribunal warned journalists and members of the public against posting photographs taken on mobile phones at the inquiry.

Mr Justice Peter Charleton was speaking after a photo taken on a mobile phone of a document which was shown on a computer screen was posted online on Monday. The document made a derogatory reference to former garda John Wilson.

“I have no reason to believe that John Wilson is anything other than a person of exemplary character,” Mr Justice Charleton said at the tribunal.

He said that although the reference to Wilson had appeared on a screen, tribunal counsel had not referred to it and there was no mention of Wilson in the transcripts. Wilson is not a subject of the tribunal’s terms of reference.

Justice Charleton said that images should not be posted online, and mobile phones should not be used to record them at the tribunal.

In the current module the tribunal is looking at whether false allegations of sexual abuse or any other unjustified grounds were inappropriately relied upon by then Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan to discredit whistleblower Sergeant Maurice McCabe at the Commission of Investigation chaired by Mr Justice Kevin O’Higgins in 2015.

The tribunal continues.

Read: Tribunal told abuse allegation used at O’Higgins Commission to ‘embarrass’ Maurice McCabe

Read: Disclosures Tribunal hears counsel for former Commissioner ‘got it wrong’

Gerard Cunningham