Martin ‘impressed’ with McCabe and ‘taken aback’ by rumours
‘He made it clear to me he wasn’t leaking to the media or looking for notoriety’
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin, pictured arriving at Dublin Castle today, told the Charleton tribunal “there was a lot of rumour about the place” in Leinster House about whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe. Photograph: Cyril Byrne
Two prominent politicians have given evidence to the Charleton tribunal of rumours they heard that Garda whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe was not to be trusted and was suspected of child abuse.
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 against Sgt McCabe in 2006, saying that the Garda investigation found no evidence that a crime was committed.
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin told the tribunal he met with Sgt McCabe in February 2014, after speaking about him with John McGuinness TD.
Mr Martin said he was given a dossier on Garda malpractice in the Cavan/ Monaghan District by Sgt McCabe, which he raised in Dáil Éireann. Afterwards he gave the report to then taoiseach Enda Kenny.
Mr Martin said “there was a lot of rumour about the place” in Leinster House about Sgt McCabe, and his press officer was asked by reporters if Sgt McCabe was reliable.
Mr Martin said that the issue that stood out for him in Sgt McCabe’s dossier was the case of Sylvia Roche Kelly.
Ms Kelly was murdered in 2007 by a man who was released on bail. Mr Martin said that this was this issue which made him decide to raise Sgt McCabe’s complaints in the Dáil.
“He impressed me as a witness. He had substantive material. He made it clear to me he wasn’t leaking to the media or looking for notoriety,” Mr Martin said.
Later in February 2014, Mr Martin had a meeting with Mr McGuinness.
“Towards the end of the meeting, he [MR MCGUINNESS]then said to me that he had met then Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan in a car park and he had said to him that Maurice McCabe was not to be trusted and he was a child abuser,” Mr Martin said.
Mr Martin said he was taken aback, even though he had previously heard the rumours, as this time the information was coming from the garda commissioner.
“To accuse anyone of child abuse is probably the worst accusation you can make against any individual,” Mr Martin said.
Mr Martin said that he was reluctant to repeat the information to anyone else, because of the damage such an allegation could do.
He said that if the commissioner had said it, then there would be an investigation, and a prosecution would follow if necessary. In the meantime, the dossier on penalty points contained concrete information.
“There is a reasonable assumption that if the Garda Commissioner is saying this, surely he must have a basis for saying it,” Mr Martin said.
Following publication of an article by journalist Paul Williams, Mr Martin said he was subsequently asked if he was prepared to meet with Miss D, and agreed to do so.
Miss D told Mr Martin she had been abused, and “her main concern with me was she felt it had not been investigated properly” and should be added to the terms of reference for any inquiry.
Mr Martin petitioned the then Taoiseach on Miss D’s behalf, and also spoke to Sgt McCabe, who told him the complaint had been investigated fully by the DPP.
Mr Martin said no garda ever directly spoke to him about Sgt McCabe.
Conor Dignam SC, representing Martin Callinan, put it to Mr Martin that he was mistaken about what Mr McGuinness had told him in February 2014, and had not learned about the car park meeting between Commissioner Callinan and Mr McGuinness until much later.
Mr Martin said there was no mistake. “Deputy McGuinness did say this to me in my office. That’s just a fact. I’m not in any shape or form mistaken in relation to that meeting,” Mr Martin said.
Mr Martin said all his experience said he should “proceed cautiously”, as he was not prepared to repeat such a damaging rumour.
“Child abuse is very serious. When that gets into the public domain its very hard to get it back, very hard,” Mr Martin said.
He said that if the rumour was true, and the Garda Commissioner was saying it, then the information would emerge in the form of a conviction, or a criminal case.
“I steered clear of hearsay, rumour, talk. I just kept to concrete, tangible material,” Mr Martin said.
Former minister Pat Rabbitte said that after a 2014 RTÉ interview, he spoke with his driver, former Garda John Kennedy.
“He said he hadn’t known I knew Maurice McCabe. He wanted to warn me in my own best interests of wading into the controversy when the rumours on the grapevine said he might not be a man of the character I said he was,” Mr Rabbitte said.
Mr Rabbitte said Mr Kennedy told him that Sgt McCabe “couldn’t be trusted, his own colleagues said he couldn’t be trusted with children.”
“There could scarcely be an allegation more grave that you could level against a man’s character,” Mr Rabbitte said.
Mr Rabbitte said he believed that Mr Kennedy was acting in good faith, and “certainly wasn’t in the business of propagating a rumour. He was merely alerting me about information he had that I didn’t have, and that I should perhaps be careful.”
Mr Des Dockery SC for John Kennedy said his client denied having a meeting or conversation with Mr Rabbitte about Sgt McCabe, and did not know Sgt McCabe.
Mr Rabbitte said he had not made a written note of the conversation, and there was “a difficulty with Mr Kennedy’s memory.”
Mr Rabbitte said the head of his private office could confirm his evidence, as he had relayed the information afterward.
The tribunal continues this afternoon.