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'My career is gone because of that': McCabe's reaction to his credibility being challenged by gardaí

The Disclosures Tribunal heard today about the “enormous stress” on gardaí about whom McCabe gave allegations against.

Image: Leah Farrell/Rollingnews.ie

Updated 5.55pm

THE DISCLOSURES TRIBUNAL has today that Maurice McCabe said “my career is gone” when asked about the garda commissioner’s legal strategy to challenge his credibility.

Transcripts showed that when he was asked if then-Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan had ever suggested that he was making allegations of malpractice and corruption “out of malice”, McCabe said he hadn’t.

He said the first he heard of it was at the O’Higgins Commission, and that his “career is gone because of that” suggestion.

The Tribunal is currently looking at the legal strategy of Nóirín O’Sullivan at the O’Higgins Commission in 2015.

Her counsel were given instructions to challenge Maurice McCabe’s credibility and motivation for making allegations against gardaí, although previous policy up to that point had been to listen to McCabe’s concerns and address them.

It is the job of the Tribunal, as Mr Justice Charleton emphasised again today, to investigate whether O’Sullivan was right to do this in the way that she did it, after all sides agreed that the commissioner wasn’t accusing him of sexual assault.

He said: “It’s down to this. Did Commissioner O’Sullivan use unjustified grounds in order to discredit Sergeant McCabe at the commission? My plea is that we all focus on that.”

Fergus Healy

Chief Superintendent Fergus Healy gave evidence today. He was appointed to act as garda liaison officer to the O’Higgins Commission.

In effect, and he agreed with this characterisation, he was O’Sullivan’s “eyes and ears” at the Commission.

He was the third person to be appointed to the role, and quite late on at that, mere weeks before the Commission got underway.

He described a situation where frantic efforts were being made behind the scenes to ensure the gardaí were ready for the O’Higgins Commission, and that they had sent over all the relevant documents.

Healy said: “To say it was all hands to the pump would be putting it mildly. There was a tremendous amount of chaos that I encountered when I met [my predecessor at a handover].”

On the discussions held before the commission got under way, and before the legal strategy of the gardaí had been determined, Healy said that he told O’Sullivan’s recently appointed counsel about the Ms D allegation against Maurice McCabe, and how he unsuccessfully tried to get the DPP directions in the case given.

On the overall strategy at the commission, Healy said: “We were now facing into a situation where we had a commission of investigation into certain circumstances.

We had an opportunity to get to the truth once and for all… I think in the interests of fairness to everybody, certain issues had to be raised.

Getting her instructions

Healy outlined how, after a number of meetings in the week the O’Higgins Commission began, counsel for O’Sullivan wanted to get instructions from her as to how it should proceed.

Their advice was to challenge Maurice McCabe’s credibility and motivation, and rely on the fallout from the Ms D allegation.

“It was my job to get these instructions,” Healy told the Tribunal. “After speaking to her I was of the view she was happy to follow counsel’s advice.”

This was on the evening of Thursday 14 May, the day the commission started.

It was put to Healy if he was aware of a previous policy from the commissioner to reach out to McCabe and treat his concerns seriously.

When a row erupted between counsel for McCabe and counsel for O’Sullivan over the line of questioning on Friday 15 May, the Tribunal heard that Healy tried to immediately get hold of Commissioner O’Sullivan to reconfirm her instructions to challenge McCabe.

His notes from the time – compiled a couple of weeks later – note that once he got through to her, she sought some time to get advice from the Department of Justice on what to do next.

She would seek to get an adjournment to take more time to think it over. But this wasn’t granted. In lieu of that her advice was to stick to the line challenging McCabe.

With this reconfirmed, and Mr Justice O’Higgins ordering a document to be drafted outlining the reasoning behind challenging McCabe, O’Sullivan’s legal team set to work drafting this over that weekend.

They urgently sought a consultation with Nóirín O’Sullivan, herself, that weekend but Healy told the Tribunal she had said she was “otherwise engaged”.

In fact, she had no input into what would follow according to Cunningham.

That letter drafted to explain why it was challenging McCabe contained a critical error. It said that McCabe had said that he was motivated to make complaints against a senior officer in order to get the DPP instructions when in fact he made a complaint to that officer to get those instructions.

Healy maintained that he had no part in this error getting into the letter.

He said that the people who contributed to this making it into it were Chief Superintendent Colm Rooney and Superintendent Noel Cunningham.

However, in all of Cunningham’s reports of his meeting with McCabe, his account tallied with McCabe’s on making the complaint to the senior officer.

At this point, Charleton interrupted: “Everybody is telling me nobody ever said that, how did it get into this draft?

It seems extraordinary that everyone would get it wrong and nobody would notice it.

“Shoot first, ask questions later”

This morning, the Tribunal finished its evidence from solicitor Annmarie Ryan, from the Chief State Solicitor’s Office. She represented O’Sullivan at the O’Higgins Commission.

Under questioning from counsel for O’Sullivan today, details of the allegations made by McCabe against senior officers were put to her.

The Tribunal heard details of a letter sent by Maurice McCabe in 2012, where he made numerous allegations of misconduct and corruption about other officers.

Here are some extracts of what he said:”I now list a sample of numerous incidents and cases pertaining to Superintendent Michael Clancy who is on a promotion list for Chief Superintendent.

In late 2007, he failed to look for an investigation into a serious case of hijacking, false imprisonment and sexual assault of two females… He allowed the garda to falsely update records. The investigation was never carried out.
The above are only a few of a catalogue of failures involving Clancy.
I now wish to make a complaint against Commissioner Martin Callinan. It is my belief he should have known of the malpractice… the evidence is clear and it is corruption.
It also questions the whole Pulse system when Gardaí can erase, alter, destroy any record or information without any accountability or sanction.

Some of the cases mentioned by McCabe had already been the subject of an internal garda investigation, and they would go on to be looked at subsequently in the Guerin Report and the O’Higgins Commission.

When the contents of this letter were put to her, Ryan strongly defended the gardaí about whom the complaints were made against, and said that McCabe’s complaints had put them under serious pressure.

She said: “I have to say the clients I was dealing with, I would describe them as deflated [people]. They were under enormous stress… I used to say ring me at whatever stage to get it off your mind, so you get a few hours sleep.

They were under enormous stress. Their wives, children and their families. Since 2008, they’ve been under eternal investigation. They just wanted an end to it.

Ryan also said that some of these allegations “crumbled and fell away because there was no evidence for them”.

Extracts of cross-examination at the O’Higgins Commission from Nóirín O’Sullivan’s counsel Colm Smyth to Maurice McCabe was also read out.

He questioned McCabe on his lack of evidence to back up claims of corruption amongst the most senior ranks of the gardaí.

At one point, Smyth put this to McCabe: “It seems you shoot first and ask questions later.”

When asked why he made a specific allegation, McCabe answered: “I made the allegation on the basis of what I knew in this case, and I only made an allegation. I didn’t actually say he did it.”

On the subject of his complaint against Martin Callinan, McCabe said “yes that is correct” to the question of whether he made it so that the report of it would arrive at the Minister for Justice’s desk.

At the Tribunal today, Michael McDowell SC, representing McCabe, described Ryan’s testimony defending the gardaí as “enthusiastic” and said that at this time Maurice McCabe was under serious pressure as well.

The Tribunal continues tomorrow with further evidence from Healy.

Read: Why did Nóirín O’Sullivan suddenly flip from protecting whistleblowers to challenging their credibility?

Read: ‘You really need to think about this’ – what Garda legal head says he should’ve said to Nóirín O’Sullivan

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Sean Murray

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