Callinan made no attempt to smear McCabe, tribunal hears

Brian Purcell says his concern with whistleblower was the penalty points issue, and how it was being dealt with

Former secretary general of the Department of Justice Brian Purcell arriving at the Charleton Tribunal at Dublin Castle. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Former secretary general of the Department of Justice Brian Purcell arriving at the Charleton Tribunal at Dublin Castle. Photograph: Cyril Byrne


There was no attempt by former garda commissioner Martin Callinan to smear whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe, the former secretary general of the Department of Justice told the Charleton tribunal.

The tribunal is looking at allegations that senior gardaí­ were smearing the whistleblower to politicians, journalists and others.

The tribunal has heard previously that the DPP directed no prosecution after an historic abuse allegation was made by Miss D against Sgt McCabe in 2006, saying that the garda investigation found no evidence that a crime was committed.

Brian Purcell said that when he asked garda commissioner Martin Callinan in 2013 if there was anything “in the background” about Sgt McCabe he received a “manner of fact” briefing on the Ms D case, and was told that the DPP found there was no case to answer.

Mr Purcell said that he could not recall if he received the briefing in person or over the phone.

“The way he presented it was on a factual basis,” Mr Purcell said.

Mr Purcell said there was no attempt by the commissioner to smear Sgt McCabe’s character.

“The only thought I had in my own mind was “Jesus, I would hate to find myself in a position where that would happen to me”,” Mr Purcell said.

Mr Purcell said his concern with Sgt McCabe was the penalty points issue, and how it was being dealt with. He said there were concerns about confidential information being put in the public domain, and “a presumption that anyone who had points cancelled had done something wrong.”

Mr Purcell could not recall if he heard the “disgusting” remark made by Mr Callinan before a January 2014 Public Accounts Committee Hearing (PAC) in relation to whistleblowers at the time, but he became aware of it shortly after.

Mr Purcell said that a text message reading “Well done, exceptional performance under fire” which he sent after Mr Callinan gave evidence to the PAC was a gesture of “solidarity.”

Mr Purcell said he had been through PAC hearings himself, and knew it could be a difficult experience.

“Its really just an expression of solidarity, look you had a tough time in there, well done, no more no less,” Mr Purcell said.

Mr Purcell said that he understood the reason why Mr Callinan sought a meeting with PAC chairman John McGuinness after the hearing was because he was concerned that if Sgt McCabe gave evidence in public, that confidential information would be made public.

Afterwards, he said, Mr Callinan “was satisfied he’d made the case”, even if he was not convinced that he had persuaded the PAC chairman.

Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy, who was on the public accounts committee in 2014, told the tribunal that there were rumours going around Leinster House that the garda whistleblowers were “odd”.

Mr Murphy said it was “quite obvious that what people were trying to do was to discredit their evidence because it was uncomfortable evidence.”

Mr Murphy said he was not aware that Mr McGuinness had a carpark meeting with former commissioner Callinan about Sgt McCabe until Mr McGuinness spoke about it in the Dáil in 2016.

Mr Murphy said that Leo Varadkar was “frustrated” that Sgt McCabe’s claims were not being taken seriously.

John Kennedy, a former garda who worked as a driver for Labour minister Pat Rabbitte, denied that he had told Mr Rabbitte that Sgt McCabe “couldn’t be trusted with children”.

Mr Kennedy served as a garda from 1972 to 2006, working in the Special Detective Unit, on protective duties with Peter Barry, and in the National Immigration Bureau.

After his retirement, Mr Kennedy joined the Labour party in 2007, and began working as a driver for Mr Rabbitte in 2011.

Mr Kennedy said he got on “very well” with Mr Rabbitte”, although he “could be grumpy at times.”

“In the morning he didn’t talk too much,” Mr Kennedy said.

Mr Kennedy said he did not know Sgt McCabe, but he had sympathy for him. “Its a very lonely perch when a guard is in a spot of bother,” Mr Kennedy said.

Mr Kennedy said he did not keep in contact with fellow gardaí after he retired and did not know anything about Sgt McCabe, “Certainly nothing of the nature of this thing I allegedly said about Sgt McCabe, which has upset my family very greatly by the way,” he said.

Tribunal chairman Mr Justice Peter Charleton told the witness that whatever he would conclude about the conflict of evidence between Mr Rabbitte and Mr Kennedy, he did not believe Mr Kennedy was “a malicious gossip”

“If this happened it was on the basis of a confidential conversation,” the chairman said.

“I appreciate that, your honour,” Mr Kennedy said.

The tribunal resumes tomorrow morning when it will hear evidence from Supt Frank Walsh, private secretary to former garda commissioners Callinan and Nóirín O’Sullivan.