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Martin Callinan's 'disgusting comment' led to 'open season' on Maurice McCabe

The Disclosures Tribunal was told about McCabe’s feelings post-that PAC meeting today by the garda’s civilian head of HR.

Image: Photocall Ireland

FORMER GARDA COMMISSIONER Martin Callinan’s description in January 2014 of the actions of Sergeant Maurice McCabe as “disgusting” resulted in “open season” on the whistleblower, the Disclosures Tribunal has heard.

In his evidence to the ongoing inquiry, John Barrett, the Garda’s civilian head of human resources, said that McCabe also felt the subsequent actions of Callinan’s successor, Nóirín O’Sullivan, had thrown him “back to the wolves”.

During their first meeting in February 2015, Barrett said McCabe described a “hostile working environment” in Mullingar, where he has been stationed since 2008.

In his note of this meeting, Barrett said that McCabe “stated that the majority of the station party in Mullingar treat him properly and professionally”.

“But from the time the then-Commissioner Callinan made his remarks to the PAC [describing whistleblowers' actions as disgusting] a number of the Mullingar station… felt they had support for their actions to ‘take it out on Maurice’,” the note states.

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

“McCabe said that once this remark from the commissioner was made, it was ‘open season’,” Barrett wrote. McCabe said he would become nervous driving to the station for work and was sleeping around four hours a day.

Barrett told the Tribunal that he was already aware of the issues McCabe had with what he described as ongoing harassment in Mullingar but that he wasn’t aware of “the specifics of its initiation and accentuation”.

He highlighted that he had worked in Mullingar from 2008 to January 2014 without such difficulties and this changed after the appearance of the former Commissioner before the PAC, where he sought to denigrate the actions of McCabe.

Barrett said in closed cultures such as the gardaí “the view of the leader can have a profound effect”.

He also said he assured McCabe that the Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan was “personally and professionally committed to change in the organisation”.

He said in response to this, McCabe “became animated and said that he stood up to make ‘the job better’ and that he feels that the actions of the commissioner have been to ‘throw him back to the wolves’”.

Barrett said his aim was to build a bridge of trust with McCabe and the meeting ended with him telling him that his “delivered message was understood”.

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But he told McCabe that he was “very uncomfortable” with “megaphone diplomacy” and conversations like their meeting finding their way to the Taoiseach and the minister.

He said he told McCabe he wanted to embark on an “open and honest dialogue free of the media and megaphone games of correspondence tennis”.

McCabe said he would discontinue his political correspondence, Barrett said. He told the tribunal that this was an important deal for him in order to build trust “both ways”.

Shortly after the meeting ended Barrett dialled into a conference call with senior Garda staff, including then Commissioner O’Sullivan. He gave the garda chiefs an outline of his meeting with McCabe and told them that he found McCabe to be credible.

A memo of the conference call, by Ken Ruane, legal advisor to An Garda Síochána, states that Barrett said about McCabe:

He deserves an Oscar or we should listen carefully.

Barrett agreed that he was saying that either McCabe was a good actor or he had something to say.

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About the author:

Declan Brennan

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