Paul Reynolds 'not negatively briefed' on Sgt McCabe

Paul Reynolds also disputes telling a retired academic Sgt McCabe was a suspected abuser

RTÉ crime correspondent Paul Reynolds has disputed evidence given by journalist and retired academic Colum Kenny about Sgt Maurice McCabe. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

RTÉ crime correspondent Paul Reynolds has told the Charleton Tribunal he was never briefed negatively about Sgt Maurice McCabe.

He has strongly rejected evidence given earlier by journalist and retired academic Prof Colum Kenny that he told him in 2014 that Sgt McCabe was a suspected child abuser.

He also said his source for reports on TV and radio on May 9th, 2016 about what was in the then unpublished O’Higgins Commission report, was a copy of the report itself. He said he did not want to say who gave him the report for reasons of journalistic privilege.

One of the tribunal’s terms of reference instructs it to investigate whether the then Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan, using briefing material prepared in Garda HQ, influenced or attempted to influence the reports in which “Sgt McCabe was branded a liar and irresponsible.”


Mr Reynolds said he believed it was in 2013 when he first learned that in 2006 Sgt McCabe had been accused of child sex abuse but that the matter had been dismissed by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).

He told Kathleen Leader BL that he thought he heard of the accusation at the time the issue of penalty point cancellations was becoming a public issue. He heard about the accusation “in the context that there was nothing in it.”

When he was told of the matter it was not suggested to him that the accusation was linked to Sgt McCabe’s motivation for his whistleblowing activities.

The tribunal has heard that an historical child sex abuse allegation was made against Sgt McCabe in 2006 by a woman called Ms D. The DPP said that the incident described by Ms D, even if true, would not be a sexual assault, or even an assault.

The former head of the Garda Press Office, Supt Dave Taylor, has said Mr Reynolds was one of 11 journalists he mentioned the accusation to in the context of Sgt McCabe's motivation for raising issues about Garda standards. Mr Reynolds said this didn't happen.

He said that any conversations he might have had with former Garda commissioners Martin Callinan and Ms O'Sullivan about Sgt McCabe did not include any negative connotation and it was never suggested to him that Sgt McCabe was other than concerned about standards in An Garda Síochána.

The two commissioners and Supt Taylor have given waivers so that any journalists who may have spoken to them in confidence can disclose information relevant material to tribunal.

Mr Reynolds was asked about evidence given on June 1st by Prof Kenny who said that during a visit to Leinster House at the time hearings were being held into the penalty points issue, he spoke with two journalists about Sgt McCabe and was told that Sgt McCabe was the subject of sex abuse allegations.

He said they told him “did I not know that McCabe was under investigation for alleged child abuse and that the gardai were full of this and that I should talk to gardaí up in” Co Cavan.

Prof Kenny said he was certain that he was not told that the allegation had been disposed of years earlier. He later privately identified Mr Reynolds as one of the two journalists he said he spoke with.

Mr Reynolds told Ms Leader that on the day identified by Prof Kenny he was not in Leinster House. He also said the first time he heard about the alleged conversation was through the tribunal, after Prof Kenny’s evidence. “The conversation he alleges occurred didn’t happen.”

He said that Prof Kenny, in his evidence, said he had afterwards approached Sgt McCabe about what he had been allegedly told and that the sergeant had shown him a copy of the DPP decision on the matter. But Sgt McCabe didn’t have the DPP’s letter. “The corroboration for what he said happened, also didn’t happen,” Mr Reynolds said.

Mr Reynolds said that for the past five years Prof Kenny had been writing disparagingly and in a factually incorrect manner about his, Mr Reynolds’ work and that if he had been approached by him in Leinster House, there would not have been a conversation. “The man is mistaken.”

The O’Higgins Commission report said Sgt McCabe had acted out of genuine and legitimate concerns and in a courageous manner in making complaints about policing in Co Cavan, but was prone to exaggeration and that some of his complaints about senior officers were without foundation.

Mr Reynolds reports of May 9th were played at the tribunal. In the reports Mr Reynolds noted that the commission had found that a serious complaint against Mr Callinan by Sgt McCabe did not have a “scintilla of evidence” to support.

It was also noted that the report said that in one case investigated by the commission, Sgt McCabe had told an "untruth" to Supt Mick Clancy, knowing it was not true, and had done this so to ensure that a matter he was concerned about would receive attention.

Mr Reynolds is to continue his evidence on Thursday.

Colm Keena

Colm Keena

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