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We'll finally get to hear from Maurice McCabe at the Tribunal tomorrow - but what will he be asked?

After over 50 days of evidence from others, the Disclosures Tribunal will finally hear from Maurice McCabe.
Mar 4th 2018, 10:00 PM 13,098 0

JUST OVER A year after the Disclosures Tribunal was set up, tomorrow we’re due to finally hear from its main protagonist Maurice McCabe.

We’ve already heard over 50 days of evidence from a variety of people involved in multiple aspects of a saga that has dragged on for well over a decade for McCabe and his family.

This will be the first time that Sergeant McCabe has spoken in such a public manner, given his previous appearance at the Public Accounts Committee was conducted in private.

And it’ll be the only time he’ll do so too, as he’ll be asked questions related to all modules of the Tribunal he’s involved in in one go.

There’ll be plenty of questions coming his way over the next few days, so here’s what to expect.

Alleged smear campaign

From the beginning

Although the actual allegation itself is not in any way under the Tribunal’s investigation, events dating back to Ms D’s allegation are in a sense the foundation for what was to follow.

The father of Ms D was a colleague of Maurice McCabe’s at Bailieboro Garda Station. In December 2006, she made a complaint that he had sexually assaulted her years earlier when she was a child.

This matter was investigated by a senior colleague, Superintendent Noel Cunningham, and, when the matter was referred to the Director of Public Prosecutions, the DPP directed in April 2007 that there was no evidence to pursue a prosecution, and cast doubt over whether what was alleged even constituted a crime.

However, these directions from the DPP were not released to McCabe or the D family. They were simply told there was insufficient evidence to prosecute.

Both Ms D and her mother were involved in angry, public confrontations with McCabe in October 2007 after they were told of the decision not to prosecute.

McCabe, with word getting round about the allegation around the station, sought to have the DPP’s full instructions vindicating him given to both himself and Ms D’s family.

McCabe made a complaint against Ms D’s father in early 2008 in what he says was an attempt to have the DPP’s directions given to both himself and the D family.

After the series of angry confrontations, he was making a case for clarity to be given to both parties. This was denied to him by a number of senior officers.

After this, McCabe would go on to make allegations of misconduct about officers in the district on matters not related to the D affair. McCabe would later be challenged for making these allegations as being driven to do so because his request for the DPP directions was denied.

He will likely face questions – although none about the actual D allegation itself – around events during 2007 and 2008, when he began to make claims of malpractice in the Cavan-Monaghan district.

Inquiries

The complaints McCabe subsequently made about alleged malpractice in the Cavan-Monaghan region were subject to a number of reports, including the internal garda report (called the Byrne McGinn report) and the Guerin Report in 2014.

The Byrne-McGinn report upheld 11 of Sergeant McCabe’s more than 30 complaints.

It also noted, however, that “no malice on the part of Sergeant McCabe is established in the making of his various complaints”.

However, a circular was sent out to garda stations in the region by Chief Superintendent Colm Rooney to the effect that no systemic failures had been identified and that it had “vindicated the high standards and professionalism” of the gardaí there.

Rooney would tell the Disclosures Tribunal that he didn’t intend these comments to be viewed as a criticism of McCabe, who will likely be asked about this during his evidence.

He’ll also likely be asked about reaction to him after this circular, if colleagues and senior management treated him differently, and if he faced any backlash for the allegations he made.

The “disgusting” comment

When then-Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan appeared before the Oireachtas Public Accounts Committee in January 2014, he described the actions of McCabe and another garda whistleblower as “disgusting”.

The Disclosures Tribunal heard from head of garda HR John Barrett that ““McCabe said that once this remark from the commissioner was made, it was ‘open season’”.

McCabe will surely be asked about this, how it affected him and his work.

This will be asked in the wider context of the protected disclosure from former garda press officer David Taylor that he was told by Callinan to “brief the media negatively” about McCabe.

The Tribunal will hear a lot more about these claims from Taylor -as it is central to the allegations of a smear campaign against McCabe – in the next few weeks.

The O’Higgins Commission

His engagement with senior gardaí before the commission

Former commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan told the Disclosures Tribunal that she made numerous efforts to reach out to Maurice McCabe and show that she was listening to and trying to address his problems, from when she took the top job in 2014.

However, at the outset of the O’Higgins Commission – looking into the allegations made by McCabe of misconduct in Cavan-Monaghan – in May 2015, it became clear on the second day of proceedings that O’Sullivan’s legal team had been instructed to challenge McCabe’s “credibility and motivation”.

On the one hand, O’Sullivan was offering supports to McCabe and addressing his problems, and on the other her legal team was challenging his credibility.

The Tribunal has heard that this provoked a strong response from McCabe at the time, later telling the commission “my career is gone because of that”.

He will likely be asked about getting his credibility challenged in this manner, and what his perspective was heading into the commission.

The final report which found he was “prone to exaggeration”

Mr Justice O’Higgins noted in his final report that while McCabe was never less than truthful in his evidence but was “prone to exaggeration” at times.

He acted out of “genuine and legitimate concerns” but also made “unfounded” and “hurtful allegations”.

Furthermore, the allegations he made were against some very senior officers and Judge O’Higgins did not uphold these claims.

McCabe’s motivation and credibility in making these claims was originally challenged at the O’Higgins Commission, so it will be interesting to see if he is asked again why he was making those claims against the senior gardaí that were “unfounded”.

HSE error

A crucial aspect of this whole affair is the error that led a far more serious allegation than what Ms D accused McCabe of being put on file. This has been dubbed the “copy and paste error” from a counsellor for Ms D in August 2013.

However, this initial mistake was repeatedly not spotted and allowed to remain on file for over two years.

In submissions made last month, counsel for McCabe and all other parties accepted that the initial error by the counsellor was a genuine mistake, but McCabe will most likely be asked when he became aware of the error being made himself and it fits in with his wider story, given how this information was passed on to Tusla and the gardaí.

What have the last few years been like?

This will be perhaps the biggest question. Maurice McCabe is a name known to most of the population of Ireland, and the narrative of his name being “blackened” after attempting to highlight deficiencies within the gardaí has been well worn at this stage.

McCabe appearing before the Disclosures Tribunal will give him an opportunity to convey his side of the story.

His story encompasses many events over many years, so this won’t be a quick session tomorrow at Dublin Castle, with the potential to stretch into many days.

After him, the plot thickens further with David Taylor, Martin Callinan and a number of journalists expected to appear at the Disclosures Tribunal in the coming weeks and months.

Read: Heroes and villains: Why nothing is clear-cut anymore at the Disclosures Tribunal

Read: Nóirín O’Sullivan says McCabe had no ‘bad motives’, but chose to challenge his motivation

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Sean Murray

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