Martin Callinan denies making negative comments about Sgt McCabe

Former Garda commissioner rejects statements to Charleton Tribunal by three people

One of the State's top officials has told the Charleton Tribunal that former Garda commissioner Martin Callinan told him in 2014 that Garda whistleblower Maurice McCabe faced sexual offences allegations.

Comptroller and Auditor General Séamus McCarthy said he met with the then commissioner in a lobby in Leinster House prior to a meeting of the Public Accounts Committee (Pac) in January 2014.

There, Mr Callinan referred to Sgt McCabe and made comments to the effect that he was not to be trusted, and that there were allegations of sexual offences against him, said Mr McCarthy.

Mr McCarthy is the third person to tell the tribunal, along with RTÉ journalist Philip Boucher-Hayes and Fianna Fáil’s John McGuinness, that Mr Callinan spoke negatively about Sergeant McCabe.


However, Mr Callinan, in his own statement to the tribunal, which is headed by the Supreme Court's Mr Justice Peter Charleton, has rejected the statements from the three men.

The tribunal is investigating claims that a smear campaign was run against Sgt McCabe by Mr Callinan, or by Garda Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan, as alleged by ex-head of the Garda Press Office, Supt David Taylor.

There have been no direct claims made to the Charleton Tribunal that Ms O’Sullivan spread any “nasty comments” about Mr McCabe.


Former chairman of the Pac John McGuinness said that during a meeting in a car park with Mr Callinan, on January 24th, 2014, they discussed rumours about Sgt McCabe. At the time, the committee was investigating allegations by the sergeant about abuse of the penalty points system.

Mr McGuinness said the then commissioner said the rumours about Sgt McCabe were true. He said Mr Callinan said Sgt McCabe had sexually abused “family members” and that an investigation was under way. The tribunal has heard that an allegation of sex abuse against Sgt McCabe, made in 2006 and not involving a family member, was dismissed by the DPP in 2007.

Mr Callinan has told the tribunal that when he met Mr McGuinness it was obvious that the politician knew that an allegation had been made about Sgt McCabe and a decision made not to proceed with charges. He rejected the claim by Mr McGuinness that the then commissioner had said that the sergeant had sexually abused a family member, could not be trusted, or that the word “paedophile” had been used during the conversation.

The tribunal heard that an error in 2013 involving the use of the wrong “template” led to an allegation of child sex abuse made against Sgt McCabe, which the authorities had already decided would not constitute sexual assault, or assault, even if it had occurred, was mistakenly described in a counsellor’s report as involving vaginal and anal digital penetration.

Original complaint

The woman who made the original complaint against the sergeant, identified as “Ms D” by the tribunal, “never came close” to making any such allegation. The allegation she did make was, by a form of “alchemy”, changed into the more serious allegation because a template used when recording her complaint wrongly maintained details from an earlier complaint made by an entirely different individual.

In an opening statement read out by Diarmuid McGuinness SC, the tribunal said that Mr Boucher-Hayes has said that, during a conversation in RTÉ in December 2013, the then commissioner had spoken at length about Sgt McCabe, said he was a “troubled individual” with psychiatric issues, and was not to be trusted. There were, the commissioner allegedly said, other things he could say about the sergeant, Mr Boucher Hayes said. “Horrific things. The worst kind of things.”

The commissioner did not elaborate further, the journalist has told the tribunal. The commissioner, he said, told him that if he wanted to know more, he should ask the then head of the Garda Press Office, Supt David Taylor.

Mr Callinan, Mr McGuinness said, has confirmed to the tribunal that the conversation in RTÉ took place, but said it was not the case that he spoke at length about Sgt McCabe’s character, or said that he had psychiatric issues or that he could not be trusted.

Mr Callinan has told the tribunal that he denies introducing references to any allegations of sexual offences against Sgt McCabe into his conversation with Mr McCarthy.

Colm Keena

Colm Keena

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