Tribunal into McCabe case set to sit for first time

Mr Justice Charleton to examine allegation of smear campaign against whistleblower

Tribunal chairman Mr Justice Peter Charleton: he has surprised many by the speed at which the first sitting has been organised. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Tribunal chairman Mr Justice Peter Charleton: he has surprised many by the speed at which the first sitting has been organised. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

 

The tribunal of inquiry into alleged Garda malpractice around whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe will sit on Monday for the first time.

Tribunal chairman Mr Justice Peter Charleton has surprised many by the speed at which the first sitting has been organised.

Mr Justice Charleton will make an opening statement this morning at Dublin Castle rather than begin the substantive work of the tribunal.

The tribunal will then take time to gather the material it deems relevant to its terms of reference.

It is only after that process has been progressed that applications for legal representation will be heard from interested parties.

The Disclosures Tribunal said when legal representation had been put in place, the opening statements of counsel would be heard, which will effectively begin the substantive public hearings.

The tribunal will investigate how the Garda force reacted to Sgt McCabe and his whistleblowing, specifically whether former Garda commissioner Martin Callinan planned a smear campaign to discredit him.

It will also examine whether Mr Callinan’s successor, Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan, knew of that alleged campaign or participated in it.

Ms O’Sullivan has stated she did nothing wrong and has resisted calls for her to step aside while the tribunal is ongoing.

Late last week, the chairwoman of the Policing Authority, Josephine Feehily, said she had “a degree of confidence” the Garda could reform at the pace needed while its commissioner was dealing with a tribunal investigating allegations against her.

Denied

Fianna Fáil sources on Sunday repeated the party stance that the position of the Garda Commissioner is one for Ms O’Sullivan herself to assess.

A senior party figure, however, said the recent comments by Ms Feehily added a “new dimension” and show it is important that oral hearings at the tribunal begin soon.

It is alleged in a protected disclosure made by the former head of the Garda Press Office Supt David Taylor that he was instructed by senior Garda management to negatively brief the media and others about Sgt McCabe.

Allegation Before he became a whistleblower, Sgt McCabe had been the subject of an allegation that he sexually assaulted a colleague’s six-year-old daughter.

The matter was investigated by the Garda and the Director of Public Prosecutions directed no prosecution should take place.

The allegation was made in late 2006 and the DPP directed a few months later that no prosecution should take place.

Sgt McCabe began his whistleblowing in 2008, at first into alleged Garda malpractice in the Cavan-Monaghan division.

The tribunal will seek to establish whether senior Garda members ran a campaign to undermine Sgt McCabe by briefing the media and others about the 2006 allegations against him.