McCabe described as ‘paranoiac’ in Garda document
Lawyer for Garda whistleblower tells tribunal document is very damaging to his client
Internal Garda document raises ‘whole series of new questions’ about how former commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan dealt with Garda whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe at the O’Higgins Commission, according to Michael McDowell SC. Photograph: Collins.
Garda whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe was described as a “paranoiac” in a document produced by a senior Garda officer some years ago and given to then Garda Commissioner, Martin Callinan, the Charleton tribunal has heard.
The Charleton tribunal, formally known as the Disclosures tribunal, was set up in May 2017 to investigate an alleged smear campaign against Sgt McCabe.
Counsel for Sgt McCabe, Michael McDowell SC, said on Thursday he never saw the document before and that it was very damaging to his client and presented the evidence just given to the tribunal by former Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan in a new light.
He suggested she might have to be recalled.
Ms O’Sullivan ended three days in the witness box on Wednesday. Mr Justice Peter Charleton, chairman of the tribunal, said the evidence should proceed and he would consider the matter later.
The tribunal is investigating whether unjustified grounds were used at the O’Higgins Commission in 2015 in an effort to discredit Sgt McCabe.
The commission, which sat in private, investigated complaints made by Sgt McCabe about certain policing matters but also serious allegations against senior officers including Mr Callinan.
The complaints about policing matters had been investigated some years earlier by Assistant Commissioner Derek Byrne and Chief Superintendent Terry McGinn, leading to a report which upheld some of the sergeant’s complaints and not others.
‘Had lost control’
Sgt McCabe, who has never seen the report, was described in a four-page document produced by Assistant Commissioner Byrne - that has now been circulated at the tribunal - as a “paranoiac who had lost control of his station,” according to Mr McDowell.
Mr McDowell said this document was given to then commissioner Mr Callinan, and was mostly likely known about by Ms O’Sullivan.
He said the document was “highly offensive and highly damaging” to his client. He had never known that Ms O’Sullivan had access to a document that portrayed his client as “acting in a paranoid way”.
This raised a “whole series of new questions” about how Ms O’Sullivan had dealt with his client at the O’Higgins Commission, “but that ship has sailed” as she had now finished giving evidence.
He said the document indicated that all of the issues raised by Sgt McCabe were all down to his client’s paranoia.
His client appeared to have been the only person who was not given a copy of the four-page document at the commission.
“Perhaps Mr Justice O’Higgins decided out of common decency that my client should not be exposed to this.”
He said he did not know if it was accepted by Mr Callinan at the time he received the report that Sgt McCabe was described as “someone who was acting in a paranoid manner.”
He referred to the old phrase, “Just because you are paranoid, it doesn’t mean they are not out to get you”.
The production of the four-page document at the tribunal “completely changes” the summary Ms O’Sullivan had given of her “standing back” from what happened at the commission, he said.
The lead counsel for Ms O’Sullivan at the commission hearings, Colm Smyth SC, told the tribunal on Thursday that briefing materials he viewed showed that Sgt McCabe had made various serious allegations against senior officers whom he was representing at the commission.
He felt “ethically bound to represent my clients regardless of the consequences for myself”, he told Diarmuid McGuinness SC, for the tribunal.
He wanted to know if he had “clearance” from Ms O’Sullivan to question Sgt McCabe’s credibility and motivation or if he had a conflict, he said.
Ms O’Sullivan gave him the suggested instructions. There were no complaints by Sgt McCabe against the then commissioner, Mr Smyth confirmed.
He said that if a conflict had arisen, he would have remained as counsel for Ms O’Sullivan as she was his primary client. The officers against whom complaints had been made would then have had to get separate representation.
The evidence continues.