O’Sullivan did not use sex abuse claim to smear McCabe – tribunal

Tribunal to investigate whether other ‘unjustified grounds’ were used to discredit him

The former Garda commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan did not try to use a false allegation of child sex abuse against Garda whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe to discredit him at the O’Higgins Commission, the chairman of the Charleton tribunal has said.

Mr Justice Peter Charleton said the only matter that remained for the tribunal, therefore, was whether the then commissioner tried to use other "unjustified grounds" to try to discredit Sgt McCabe at the commission hearings.

The commission hearings were held in private during 2015 at a time when Ms O’Sullivan was expressing public support for Sgt McCabe and for whistleblowers.

The tribunal’s terms of reference include, among other matters, investigating whether a false child sex allegation made against Sgt McCabe in 2006 was used against him at the commission hearings. The O’Higgins commission investigated allegations of Garda wrongdoing made by Sgt McCabe.

Chief Supt Fergus Healy, who acted as liaison for Ms O’Sullivan at the commission hearings, said that in the days prior to its first sitting in May 2015, the commissioner’s legal team met him and other senior officers and formed the view that Sgt McCabe’s motivation and credibility would have to be challenged. He was asked by Colm Smyth SC to get instructions from Ms O’Sullivan that this should be done.

Legal privilege

During the consultations the legal team asked what had “triggered” the complaints that had been made by Sgt McCabe, Chief Supt Healy told Kathleen Leader, for the tribunal.

Chief Supt Healy could not tell the tribunal what was said at consultations with Supt Noel Cunningham and Chief Supt Colm Rooney, as they had not waived the legal privilege that covered their consultations with the legal team.

Chief Supt Healy said he managed to get Ms O’Sullivan on the phone on the evening of May 14th, 2015, the day the commission hearings began.

He told her of the recommendation by the legal team that they be allowed explore the issue of Sgt McCabe’s motivation and credibility.

Ms O’Sullivan said that if counsel wanted to “go down that road”, they could. He conveyed this to Mr Smyth the following morning.

Chief Supt Healy told Ms Leader that matters associated with Sgt McCabe had been going on since 2007 and the commission sat in 2015. The commission was viewed by Garda management as an opportunity to “get to the truth of everything and deal with the fallout from that”.

Ms O’Sullivan was the employer of everyone involved, including Sgt McCabe. “In the interest of fairness, certain matters had to be raised.”

Colm Keena

Colm Keena

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