Charleton tribunal: Callinan disputes evidence from three witnesses

Ex-Garda commissioner says John Deasy, Seamus McCarthy and John McGuinness are wrong

Former Garda commissioner Martin Callinan is giving evidence to the Charleton tribunal in Dublin Castle on Monday. Photograph: Collins

The former Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan has said three previous witnesses before the Charleton tribunal were wrong in their evidence about what he had said to them about whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe.

Mr Callinan, resuming his evidence to the tribunal on Monday, said deputy John Deasy of Fine Gael, the Comptroller & Auditor General Seamus McCarthy, and deputy John McGuinness of Fianna Fáil, were all wrong in their accounts of separate conversations that occurred on January 23rd, 2014 in Leinster House.

The conversations occurred in the context of Mr Callinan, the then Garda commissioner, appearing before the Dáil Public Accounts Committee, to discuss the penalty points controversy and claims by Sgt McCabe and his fellow-whistleblower John Wilson.

The tribunal heard that on his way into the meeting, Mr Callinan had a conversation with Mr Deasy in a coffee dock.


Mr Deasy has said that during a brief exchange, Mr Callinan said Sgt McCabe was someone who could not be believed or trusted.

Mr Callinan said to Patrick Marrinan SC, for the tribunal, his recall of the conversation was at “total variance” with the politician’s account.

"They are not words that I used nor are they words that I would use against any member of An Garda Síochána. "


He said he could not accept “in any way shape or form” that Mr Deasy’s evidence was correct. As Mr Callinan made his way to the lower floor to the committee rooms, he spoke to Mr McCarthy.

Mr McCarthy has told the tribunal in evidence that during a brief exchange Mr Callinan said to him Sgt McCabe was not to be trusted, that he had questions to answer, and that there were allegations of sexual offences against him.

Mr Callinan said Mr McCarthy’s evidence was incorrect. He said that he had mentioned in the context of data that had been given to Mr McCarthy, that Sgt McCabe had made allegations before that had turned out to be incorrect.

He said that he genuinely believed there was some type of misunderstanding. Mr Callinan said he had, after Mr McCarthy had mentioned rumours of sexual offences, said that there had been an allegation of child sex abuse against Sgt McCabe in 2006 but a file had gone to the DPP and no charges had been brought.

“I felt that was the correct thing to do” given that Sgt McCabe was scheduled to appear before the committee at a later date.

Mr McCarthy has said his recall is that there was a reference to sexual allegations, plural, and that it was not said that they were in the past.

Mr Callinan also said an account of a conversation with Mr McGuinness that he has given to the tribunal was also incorrect.

After Mr Callinan’s appearance at the committee hearing was finished, Mr McGuinness, the chairman of the committee, came down to speak to him.

Mr McGuinness has told the tribunal Mr Callinan told him a story about Mr Wilson, when a serving garda, having gone to an incident on Grafton Street in Dublin involving horses.


He said the then commissioner said, referring to Mr Wilson, that he “pulled the knacker off the horse, rode it back to the barracks and tied it to the railings - and the other fellow fiddles with children - they’re the kind of f****** headbangers I’m dealing with”.

Mr Callinan said it was not the case that he had said this to Mr McGuinness. Mr Callinan said he had never heard of the story about Mr Wilson.

“That is not the language that I would engage in with anybody and certainly not when speaking about colleagues or former colleagues to the chairman of the public accounts committee, absolutely not.”

Mr Callinan said Mr McGuinness had said quite a few things about his alleged conversations with Mr Callinan that had turned out not to be correct.

“I am 100 per cent clear in my mind that I never in any form spoke about Sgt McCabe in a derogatory fashion.”

He did not refer to Sgt McCabe interfering with children.

Mr Marrinan said a number of independent claims had been made to the tribunal about conversations during which Mr Callinan had sought to blacken Sgt McCabe's name.

“That’s the evidence that those three individuals have given,” Mr Callinan said. “I have provided my evidence to the tribunal.” He agreed there was “a great degree of variance.”

He said that on the day he had pointed out to some people that Sgt McCabe had made allegations before which had turned out to be incorrect, but he had never said he was not to be trusted.

‘Absolutely false’

Mr Callinan later said Mr McGuinness gave evidence to the tribunal that is “absolutely false”. He was responding to the claim that during a meeting in a Dublin car park in January 2014, he told the then chair of the Public Accounts Committee that Sgt McCabe had “sexually abused his family and an individual”.

The meeting in the car park of the then Bewleys Hotel at Newlands Cross, Dublin, took place the day after Mr Callinan’s appearance before the committee to discuss revelations about the penalty points system by Sgt McCabe and his fellow Garda whistleblower, John Wilson.

The committee was considering calling Sgt McCabe and Mr Callinan said his purpose in meeting Mr McGuinness was to persuade him that this was not appropriate.

The tribunal is investigating allegations of a smear campaign against Sgt McCabe by senior Garda management.

On January 24th, 2014, Mr Callinan travelled from an event in Dundalk to meet Mr McGuinness, who was on his way home to Kilkenny.

Mr McGuinness has said he was surprised when Mr Callinan sat into his car as he believed they would be going into the hotel, but Mr Callinan said Mr McGuinness moved some papers off the front passenger seat of his car when he saw Mr Callinan approach.

Mr McGuinness, in his evidence to the tribunal, said that when he got into the car Mr Callinan almost immediately told him there were issues around Sgt McCabe and his behaviour, that the whistleblower had sexually abused his family and an individual, and that he was not to be trusted.

The deputy said the then Garda commissioner told him it would be a serious mistake to call the sergeant before the committee and that “I would find myself in serious trouble.”

Asked by Mr Marrinan, for the tribunal, if he had made the comment about Sgt McCabe sexually abusing his family, Mr Callinan replied: “That is absolutely false. I never under any circumstances said anything of that nature.”

Handwritten note

He said that during the meeting in the car park Mr McGuinness had indicated that he had heard rumours about Sgt McCabe and that he, Mr McGuinness, knew this was to do with a 2006 allegation that had been dismissed by the DPP.

Mr Callinan said it was “absolutely untrue”, as said by Mr McGuinness, that the then commissioner had said there was an ongoing, advanced investigation into Sgt McCabe.

“That is totally untrue and contrary to any facts that were in my knowledge at that time.”

Sgt McCabe was not the subject of any sexual assault investigation at the time. He was the subject of an allegation in 2006 that was dismissed by the DPP.

Mr Callinan said that during the conversation he did not speak in any derogatory terms about the sergeant. He put forward a proposal that envisaged Sgt McCabe not appearing before the committee, but was told that Sgt McCabe would definitely be called to give evidence. In the event Sgt McCabe appeared before the committee in a private session.

The tribunal has been shown a handwritten note Mr McGuinness has said he took of the conversation after he drove away and later pulled in at the side of the road.

Mr Callinan said he had a view about the note. “What is written down there does not represent the conversation I had with John McGuinness in the car park ... It absolutely does not reflect what was said.” He said he did not propose to “go further” in relation to the note.

Mr McGuinness, Mr Callinan said, had stated on radio at a later date when discussing the car park meeting, that he had not taken any notes. However he had told the tribunal that he had pulled in on the side of the road to take the note, which was shown at the tribunal.

“I cannot accept that that note is an accurate note,” he said. There was “an element of fuzziness around it for such a serious matter.”

He said he could not “for the life of me” understand why the things that were being said of him were being said. “They are simply not true. They are falsehoods.”

He said he was giving the tribunal his evidence as to the interactions he had with his “accusers” before the tribunal. “I am telling the truth. I am here to tell the truth, as far as I am concerned.”

He said it was not the case that he had wiped the text messages off his mobile phone before giving it to the Fennelly Commission, which was set up after Mr Callinan’s resignation in March 2014.

He said he retrieved the phone and handed it over with the charger, without switching it on. The tribunal has had work done on the phone which showed there were 278 text messages of which all but one had been deleted. The messages were substantially recovered.

Mr Callinan is continuing to give evidence.

Colm Keena

Colm Keena

Colm Keena is an Irish Times journalist. He was previously legal-affairs correspondent and public-affairs correspondent