Inaction on Tusla letter not part of plan to ‘harm’ Maurice McCabe
Supt Noel Cunningham denies being part of effort by Garda bosses to smear whistleblower
Sgt Maurice McCabe at the Disclosures Tribunal in Dublin Castle. Photograph: Collins.
A Garda Superintendent has denied failing to respond to a 2013 letter from Tusla so it could “perculate in the ether” and some day in the future do harm to whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe.
Supt Noel Cunningham told the Disclosures Tribunal he had “absolutely not” decided to respond to the letter because of instructions from Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan, her predecessor Martin Callinan or the former head of the Garda Press Office, Supt David Taylor.
The tribunal is investigating whether senior Garda management directed that a smear campaign be conducted against Sgt McCabe and Supt Cunningham denied being part of any such effort.
Responding to Micheal O’Higgins SC, for the Garda Commissioner and other Garda, Supt Cunningham said he had never made any effort to sully Sgt McCabe’s reputation. He had not “wilfully” decided not to respond, in the knowledge that it might trigger “an earthquake” in the HSE.
The superintendent was giving evidence about receiving a 2013 letter from social worker Keara McGlone of Tusla who was seeking a meeting about a child sex allegation against Sgt McCabe which he had investigated in 2006 and 2007. The investigation resulted in no charges against the whistleblower.
In 2013, Laura Brophy, a counsellor who was seeing the complainant, who is being called ‘Ms D’, made what she described as a clerical error and replaced what was alleged by ‘Ms D’ against Sgt McCabe with details from an entirely unconnected client’s file.
The consequence was that an allegation that tribunal counsel has described as amounting to “horseplay”, was replaced with one of digital rape.
In August 2013, Ms McGlone wrote to Supt Cunningham and requested a meeting. However, he said he placed the letter in the file he kept on the ‘Ms D’ investigation, and then forgot about it.
Sgt McCabe and his wife Lorraine, in the wake of a Prime Time programme earlier this year, said publicly that if the request for a meeting had been complied with, the rape error would have been immediately spotted.
Supt Cunningham said nothing in the letter from Ms McGlone referred to the new allegation. He was busy dealing with “live” investigations and put the letter in the closed file, which he kept in a cabinet because of its sensitive nature. He then forgot about it.
The tribunal has heard that because both Sgt McCabe and ‘Ms D’s’ father were sergeants in Bailieboro station, a decision was taken by the Sgt James Fraher not to put the 2006 allegation on the Garda Pulse system, a decision later supported by the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission.
Michael McDowell SC, for Sgt McCabe, asked the witness about the decision in 2007 not to give the details to Sgt McCabe of the DPP’s decision as to why charges should not be brought. The sergeant was having a difficult time in the Bailieboro station and wanted the details released both to him and the family of ‘Ms D’. He knew that the DPP’s office had said the disputed incident alleged by Ms D, even if true, would not have constituted a sexual assault or an assault.
However, Supt Cunningham said it was the rule at the time that people were only told when the DPP had decided not to prosecute.
In October 2007 there had been two public incidents involving the ‘Ms D’s’ family and Sgt McCabe. In one of them, the chairman, Mr Justice Peter Charleton noted, Sgt McCabe “retreated to the station and ran up the stairs”.
Mr McDowell said Sgt McCabe had informed the Garda at the time through his solicitor that he did not want to see anyone prosecuted. However, Supt Cunningham said the “spectre of very serious allegations” had been raised against ‘Mr D’ and the Garda was duty bound to investigate.
Supt Cunningham has now concluded his evidence.