Updated Jun 21st 2018, 6:59 PM
DAIL DEPUTY MICK Wallace has told the Charleton tribunal that he believes there was an orchestrated campaign to undermine Garda whistleblower Sergeant Maurice McCabe.
The tribunal is looking at allegations by Superintendent David Taylor that he was directed when he was Garda Press Officer to smear Sergeant McCabe. Former commissioners Martin Callinan and Nóirín O’Sullivan deny there was any smear campaign.
Wallace told the tribunal that he met with Sergeant McCabe about revelations made by Superintendent Taylor on 3 October 2016. He said the sergeant told him that Supt Taylor had confirmed what he had suspected, that there was a campaign to discredit him because of his efforts to expose Garda malpractices.
Wallace and fellow TD Clare Daly subsequently met with Supt Taylor. Wallace said he got the impression that phone text messages were used as part of the campaign to undermine Sergeant McCabe.
“It’s possible that he didn’t specifically say that he sent texts out in text form but it was the impression I left his home with,” Wallace said.
Wallace said that after Taylor’s evidence that no texts were used in the campaign, he phoned the superintendent to clarify if he had said to him that texts were sent. He said Taylor’s response was no. The TD said he was never told by any journalist about what Taylor was saying about McCabe, “but our relationship with journalists is pretty poor”.
Wallace said that when they met, Superintendent Taylor “did feel he was being unfairly treated. He did feel there were trumped up charges against him”.
“Given everything we have learned since, it’s probably fair to say that he was embellishing how he was being treated,” Wallace said.
Wallace said that he was given the impression that phones belonging to Superintendent Taylor were seized during a Garda investigation into media leaks “to get rid of evidence”.
Wallace said that he believed that Superintendent Taylor had told more of the truth in their initial meeting than he had in his evidence to the tribunal.
“I think he told us more of the truth in his living room than he told here,” Wallace said.
Wallace said that when he met with Superintendent Taylor, he found him remorseful and genuine, and “in a bad place mentally”.
“He did seem genuinely sorry that he had done serious damage to Maurice McCabe and his family. That was the impression that we got and we felt that he was being sincere,” Wallace said.
“He may have embellished how he was treated himself, but I actually believed what he was saying in relation to the orchestrated campaign against Maurice,” Wallace said.
Wallace said he did not believe Superintendent Taylor “would have put his head above the parapet” if he had not “run foul of the authorities himself”.
Wallace said that in hindsight, Taylor “was being a bit economical with the truth”, and it was up to the tribunal chairman to decide whether or not there had been an orchestrated campaign against McCabe.
“I’d say there had never been a judge in the history of the State told so many lies,” Wallace said.
“I believe that he was being truthful to us about the orchestrated campaign against Maurice. He was obviously less truthful about how he was being treated himself,” Wallace said.
Wallace said that he first met with Sergeant McCabe around 2012, and had ongoing contacts since then.
“For a good part of two years we were ridiculed and rubbished for anything we said. We were told we were barking up the wrong tree,” Wallace said.
Earlier, two senior RTÉ production staff told the tribunal of conversations they had with journalist Philip Boucher-Hayes about derogatory remarks made by former Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan.
Boucher-Hayes previously told the tribunal that in a conversation before a Crimeline programme in December 2013, Callinan told him that McCabe had “psychological and psychiatric issues”, and had done “horrific things, the worst kind of things”.
In 2007 the DPP directed no prosecution after a Garda investigation into abuse allegations made by Miss D against Sergeant McCabe, saying no evidence of a crime had been disclosed.
Niamh O’Connor, who was the commissioning editor for the programme, said that before the broadcast she asked Boucher-Hayes to speak to Callinan about questions he would be asked during the Crimeline broadcast.
Early the following year, Boucher-Hayes told her in a conversation that the garda commissioner had said McCabe had “psychological and psychiatric issues”.
Tom Donnelly, a series producer on Drivetime in 2013, said that he had a conversation in late December with Boucher-Hayes, probably on 30 December 2013, about the conversation with Callinan.
Boucher-Hayes first said words to the effect of “you might not believe this”, Donnelly said.
“He then proceeded to tell me the conversation he had with Callinan and the references to McCabe. He said the commissioner had told him that McCabe had problems and he made references or allusions, and this is the word that stuck in my head, to the worst kind of things or the worst sort of things,” Donnelly said.
Donnelly said he felt that Boucher-Hayes was “surprised” by what Callinan told him, and later made efforts to follow up with an interview or response with Callinan after the report of the O’Higgins commission of investigation was published. By that time, Callinan had retired, and Boucher-Hayes was unable to contact him.
Donnelly said that he had been following the tribunal on social media, which was how he first learned that Boucher-Hayes had named him at the tribunal. Donnelly said he could not say if Boucher-Hayes was concerned at what he was told by Callinan.
“I think he was surprised that a senior Garda figure would say something like this to him,” Donnelly said.
John Barrett, the head of human resources in An Garda Síochána, a position equivalent to the rank of assistant commissioner, said that his minutes of meetings with Sergeant McCabe were “fully complete”. He added that he had not told the sergeant that a briefing to RTÉ journalist Paul Reynolds “came from Block One”, the part of Garda HQ containing commissioner O’Sullivan’s office.
Allegations ‘peddled’ to newsrooms
Allegations against McCabe were being “peddled” to newsrooms in Dublin, a national newspaper editor also told the Charleton Tribunal today
Irish Daily Mirror editor John Kierans said he was never “negatively briefed” by Superintendent Taylor, but he subsequently learned that “the story had been peddled to other newsrooms around town”.
Mr Justice Peter Charleton repeated that there was an obligation on any journalist who had information about allegations against McCabe to come forward, and “if people say they have privilege but they know something, I’d much rather know that than for them to simply sit in their office blocks and not come to the tribunal and not communicate”.
I regard it as not a legal obligation but much much more serious than that, a patriotic obligation of people who know something to come forward so that the people of Ireland aren’t left in the daft situation that people who know things in the journalism profession have not come forward, but nonetheless will be able to write articles about what happened to them in the aftermath of the tribunal report.
Justice Charleton said that if journalists did not come forward, it could affect their credibility and cause damage to media outlets.
Kierans said that in early 2014, crime reporter Cathal McMahon came to him with “a cracking story” that McCabe had been questioned about alleged sexual abuse and that this was confirmed by the Garda Press Office.
In 2007 the DPP directed no prosecution after a Garda investigation into abuse allegations made by Miss D, saying no evidence of a crime was disclosed.
“But my antenna was up, I felt something wasn’t right,” Kierans said.
Kierans said it was one thing for someone to be questioned by police, but there had been no charges, so he took a decision to hold off.
“As an editor I always follow my gut instinct, and I’m glad I did on this one,” Kierans said.
Kierans said that it “alarmed” him that the Garda Press Office was confirming an allegation against one of their own members. He said he had forgotten about the allegation as McMahon was no longer working with the paper, until McMahon’s name came up in passing and it “triggered a memory”.
McMahon told the tribunal that after he heard an allegation about McCabe in January or February 2014, he contacted Taylor in the Garda Press Office.
McMahon said that Taylor confirmed the story to him, and “the only addition was he said maybe I should go to Cavan”.
“My information was the allegation related to the alleged sexual assault of a child in Cavan,” McMahon said. The source of the allegation was not a garda and Taylor did not name anyone to talk to in Cavan, McMahon said.
David Ferry BL, on behalf of Taylor, suggested that it was his client who had briefed McMahon and not the other way around, but that Taylor had not suggested the witness should go to Cavan.
“That is not correct,” McMahon said.
McMahon said that he spoke to his editor, Kierans, and sought guidance about the allegation. The story was not pursued and McMahon did not go to Cavan. McMahon said he had not come forward earlier to the tribunal as he had not written any story about McCabe, he was not negatively briefed and was not named by Taylor as a journalist who was negatively briefed.
Also today, Deputy Clare Daly told the tribunal that after McCabe told her about a meeting with Taylor, she and Mick Wallace TD went to meet with the superintendent.
Daly said that prior to meeting with Taylor, she had been aware of “whispering allegations” about Maurice McCabe dating from around the time of a 2014 Paul Williams article about abuse allegations against an unnamed garda officer.
When she and Wallace met Taylor, the former press officer told them his job was to “tip off” journalists that McCabe was driven by revenge. The TD said her recollection was that Taylor talked a lot about phone text messages, and those text messages were part of a campaign to undermine McCabe.
Daly said Taylor said his phones had been seized during a Garda investigation into media leaks and “bleached”. She said she was given the impression that if there was phone evidence “it had been well destroyed by now”.
Daly said that she was not contacted by Taylor or anyone else to correct the public record when she spoke about text messages in the Dáil and in media interviews.
In evidence at the tribunal earlier this year, Taylor said that the directions he was given to smear McCabe were verbal.
“Dave Taylor was saying he had been given a job to feed the media and the evidence of that was to be destroyed,” Daly said.
Daly said she had been dealing with McCabe since 2011 and they had been aware of efforts to undermine McCabe. What Taylor said about a campaign was not news, it was their “direct experience”, she added.
Daly said that McCabe’s appearance as a serving garda before the Dáil Public Accounts Committee was “borderline revolutionary to be honest”.
When then Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan told the Committee he found the behaviour of whistleblowers “disgusting”, he “had revealed his true colours”, Daly said.
Retired detective superintendent John McCann said that he did not talk to his daughter, journalist Debbie McCann, about allegations against Sgt McCabe or any other matters he had learned in his work.
“If I wanted to give my daughter a story, there are lots of stories I could give her, without passing on some rumour. But that’s not the way she and I worked,” McCann said.