‘Mail’ journalist denies making up evidence to Charleton tribunal

Alison O’Reilly says colleague told her Nóirín O’Sullivan passed on information about whistleblower McCabe

Journalist Alison O’Reilly arriving at the Charleton Tribunal in Dublin Castle. Photograph: Stephen Collins/Collins Photos

Journalist Alison O’Reilly arriving at the Charleton Tribunal in Dublin Castle. Photograph: Stephen Collins/Collins Photos

 

A journalist with the Mail on Sunday is to strongly reject claims that she told a colleague that she received information about a sex abuse allegation against Sgt Maurice McCabe from former Garda commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan.

The Charleton Tribunal on Friday heard further details of two completely contrasting versions of alleged conversations that occurred between the journalists with the Mail titles, one of whom has accused the other of telling lies.

When Irish Mail journalist Alison O’Reilly resumed her evidence, Hugh Mohan SC, for Associated Newspapers and Irish Mail on Sunday reporter Debbie McCann, put it to O’Reilly what Ms McCann will say to the tribunal in response to the claims made by Ms O’Reilly. Ms O’Reilly has separate legal representation.

Ms O’Reilly said that during conversations in early 2014, Ms McCann said that she had received information from Ms O’Sullivan about Sgt McCabe and a child sex assault allegation made against him in 2006.

The allegation was made by ‘Ms D’, the daughter of a Garda, and was comprehensively dismissed by the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Ms O’Reilly also said Ms McCann had told her that she had visited ‘Ms D’ in her home and interviewed her about the sex assault allegation, something which has been denied by ‘Ms D’ and Ms McCann, who have both said they never spoke.

‘Lying’

Ms O’Reilly said her evidence to the tribunal concerned what she was told by Ms McCann. “Either she was lying then or she is lying now,” she said.

Mr Mohan said his client’s evidence would be that she and Ms O’Reilly had discussed the issue in 2014 but Ms McCann had never been involved in any negative briefing against Sgt McCabe. Nor had she ever said that she got information about Ms D from Ms O’Sullivan or the former head of the Garda Press Office, Supt Dave Taylor, he added.

The tribunal has heard that Ms O’Sullivan has denied ever giving any information to Ms McCann about the ‘Ms D’ allegation or about her family. Supt Taylor has claimed Ms McCann is one of 11 journalists he spoke to as part of an alleged smear campaign against Sgt McCabe.

Mr Mohan said that Ms McCann would “of course” be saying that the two journalists had discussed Sgt McCabe and the allegation against him but would not agree that she was as “adamant” about the matter as Ms O’Reilly was claiming.

“She used very derogatory terms when she was describing him,” Ms O’Reilly said.

Ms O’Reilly has told the tribunal that Ms McCann told her she made a number of efforts to get her employer to publish her interview with ‘Ms D’. Mr Mohan said this meant Ms McCann was a “pushing for the publication of a fake news story” about an interview with ‘Ms D’ that had not happened.

‘Clear recollection’

Ms O’Reilly said she was telling the tribunal what she was told at the time by Ms McCann. “I have a very clear recollection of what she said.”

When Mr Mohan suggested that the witness was making up her evidence, Ms O’Reilly responded: “Chairman, I am not making it up.”

Ms O’Reilly told the tribunal Ms McCann told her details of what she said she had been told by ‘Ms D’ about the alleged sexual assault, but Mr Mohan said all of these details were in the public domain by the time Ms O’Reilly had made her statement to the tribunal. Ms O’Reilly said it was not the case that she made up her evidence on the basis of information that was publicly available.

The tribunal heard that Ms O’Reilly, who is on the staff of Associated Newspapers, is taking two High Court actions and a Labour Court case against her employer. She said this was not relevant to the evidence she was giving the tribunal.

“Chairman, I am just telling the tribunal the truth,” she said.

The tribunal is continuing to hear evidence from other witnesses.