Allegations over McCabe’s taped meeting with gardaí arose from ‘inaccuracy’
Charleton tribunal shines completely new light on very contentious episode
Whistleblower Maurice McCabe at Dublin Castle on Monday. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins
“[Two] gardaí were planning to perjure themselves or provide false evidence to impugn Sgt McCabe’s motives until a recording was produced,” Mick Wallace TD said under Dáil privilege on May 25th, 2016.
He was speaking two weeks after the publication of the report of the O’Higgins commission, which inquired into the State’s handling of Sgt Maurice McCabe and his whistleblowing.
Wallace was referring to a claim, reported in The Irish Examiner weeks earlier, that two Garda members had been readying to tell the commission Sgt McCabe was motivated by a grudge when making a complaint against a senior officer.
Despite the seriousness of the allegation and the damage it would have done to Sgt McCabe and his whistleblowing had the claim stuck, there was no mention of this episode in the O’Higgins commission report.
However, The Irish Examiner published what it claimed was the detail of the incident.
It said the two Garda officers were claiming they had a meeting with Sgt McCabe in Mullingar in 2008. And they were planning to tell the commission it was at that meeting Sgt McCabe conceded his complaint against a senior officer was motivated by a grudge.
“That was blown out of the water when McCabe produced a transcript of the meeting in question,” the newspaper reported, with RTÉ also carrying the story.
He sounded outraged when claiming in the Dáil they were “putting forward” evidence at the O’Higgins commission in 2014 that was “totally false” and yet the government was “doing nothing”.
“Sgt Maurice McCabe would be buried by now if he had not taped the conversation,” Wallace said.
Earlier that same day, the then Garda commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan said there had been so much public disquiet about the allegations in the media that she asked the minister for justice to refer it to the Garda Ombudsman “in the interests of fairness to all”.
However, according to the Charleton tribunal, the allegations set out in the Dáil against Supt Cunningham and Sgt Martin are not true.
In its opening statement to its latest module, it emerged the much maligned two Garda officers never tried to impugn Sgt McCabe.
Kathleen Leader, for the Charleton tribunal, made the lengthy opening statement on Monday in which the allegation was dealt with.
The statement confirmed that a meeting had indeed taken place between Sgt McCabe and Supt Cunningham in Mullingar in August 2008. Sgt Martin was present as a witness.
Sexual assault claim
The meeting dealt with some of the fallout of an allegation of sexual assault made against Sgt McCabe by the daughter of one of his colleagues.
The Director of Public Prosecutions had rejected the allegation, which was historical. While Sgt McCabe was told there was no case to answer, he wanted the DPP’s full direction in the case. And he wanted the full direction circulated to a group of people who knew about the allegation.
When his senior officers said they could not comply with his request, Sgt McCabe drew up a report. It contained a complaint about the previous difficulties he had had with the father of Ms D.
He gave this report to Supt Mick Clancy in Bailieboro. Sgt McCabe, the Charleton tribunal has now said, hoped this report would persuade Supt Clancy to release the full DPP direction to him and have it circulated.
Supt Cunningham and Sgt McCabe spoke about this matter at the Mullingar meeting six months later, in August 2008.
Ms Leader on Monday said that when the meeting was concluded the notes taken during it were signed.
It would also emerge later that Sgt McCabe recorded the meeting and made a transcript of it.
But no disagreement has ever emerged between Sgt McCabe on the one hand and Supt Cunningham and Sgt Martin on the other about what was said at the meeting.
So how did reports and Dáil comments emerge in May of last year suggesting Sgt McCabe produced his tape and “blew out of the water” the “false evidence” being readied at the O’Higgins commission to damage him?
The short answer is that an “inaccuracy” arose between lawyers for Nóirín O’Sullivan and one of their clients (not Ms O’Sullivan).
That resulted in the lawyers initially telling the commission that Supt Cunningham would say in evidence that Sgt McCabe made a complaint against Supt Clancy “to force him to allow Sgt McCabe to have the full DPP directions conveyed to him”.
In reality, Sgt McCabe had made a complaint to Supt Clancy about Ms D’s father, the Charleton tribunal opening statement said on Monday.
And Supt Cunningham planned to inform the commission that Sgt McCabe told him he had done this in the hope it would change Supt Clancy’s mind and convince him to release the DPP’s direction.
This confusion was resolved at the O’Higgins commission. And this resolution was referred to on Monday by Ms Leader of the Charleton tribunal.
“What is disappointing, perhaps,” she said, “is that an error was made in ascribing to Supt Cunningham a view that Sgt McCabe had told him that he had made allegations against Supt Clancy”.
However, the initial erroneous summary setting out what Supt Cunningham’s evidence would be formed the basis of the news reports and subsequent debate last year.
The fact the error was addressed, no such evidence was given and that there was never any plan to give such evidence at the commission never emerged publicly until now.