Charleton Tribunal: Solicitor could see "trouble brewing" over challenger to whistleblower's integrity

Update 6.40pm: A solicitor from the Chief State Solicitor's Office has told the Charleton Tribunal that she had seen "trouble brewing" when barristers representing the garda commissioner said they were challenging the integrity of  Maurice McCabe at the O'Higgins inquiry, writes Gerard Cunningham.

The commission of inquiry headed by Judge Kevin O'Higgins was set up to look at allegations of garda malpractice made by Sgt McCabe.

In a note she took at the time, State solicitor Ann Marie Ryan wrote the words "Political dynamite!!" after senior counsel Colm Smyth raised the question of Sgt McCabe's credibility and integrity. This was on the second day of evidence at the inquiry on Friday 15 May 2015.

"I thought it was highly political before I came on board, I could see trouble brewing," Ms Ryan told the tribunal.

Ms Ryan said that she had hoped for a consultation with then Garda Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan about her instructions to barristers at the tribunal. She said the barristers on the legal team had made themselves available, but the consultation did not happen.

She said she was told by Chief Supt Fergus Healy that the commissioner was busy and engaged with conferences at the time.

"I understand it's a busy job," Ms Ryan said.

Michael McDowell SC, representing Sgt McCabe, said there seemed to be a pattern at the O'Higgins inquiry of lines of questioning to suggest that his client, as sergeant in charge at Bailieboro Garda Station, was responsible for issues that he himself had highlighted in complaints.

Mr McDowell said in one instance, where a computer exhibit in a criminal case went missing, documents which indicated that Sgt McCabe had possession of the device were later found to be forged.

Tribunal chairman Mr Justice Peter Charleton said that Judge O'Higgins had found that Sgt McCabe was not at fault in the cases he highlighted.

The tribunal heard that the Commissioner and her legal team, including Ms Ryan, attended a meeting on November 3, 2015. Ms Ryan told the tribunal that at this meeting it was expected that Mr McDowell would cross-examine the Commissioner about instructions she had given question Sgt McCabe's integrity.

Ms Ryan told Mr McDowell said: "We felt, so to speak, that you were going to attack the Commissioner in relation to day two.

"Attack is probably the wrong word. It was felt that you were going to raise these issues. And that's why we were raising them, dealing with them with Commissioner O'Sullivan."

However, the following day at the inquiry Colm Smyth SC said that any imputation against Sgt McCabe's integrity was his own error. The tribunal chairman asked if this was a "tactical withdrawal" by the Garda Commissioner's team.

"My sense of it is there must have been confusion from the very start and it was clarified that day," Ms Ryan said.

The chairman asked if there was "a deliberate attempt to rattle Sgt McCabe on 15 May" which was withdrawn when it didn't work.

"No, there was no sense of that happening, absolutely not," Ms Ryan said.

Earlier: Strategy to attack Maurice McCabe described as 'political dynamite' by O'Sullivan solicitor

A strategy to attack the motivation of Maurice McCabe at the O’Higgins Inquiry was described as political dynamite in a note by a solicitor representing Noirin O’Sullivan.

Annmarie Ryan from the Chief State Solicitor’s Office has told the Disclosures Tribunal that she wrote the note following legal argument at the O’Higgins Commission over the plan to attack Sgt McCabe’s Motivation.

The Disclosures Tribunal is trying to establish if Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan relied on false allegations of abuse to discredit Garda Whistleblower Maurice McCabe at the O’Higgins Commission of investigation.

On the second day of that Inquiry, legal argument arose over whether Commissioner O’Sullivan had instructed her legal team to attack the motivation of Sgt McCabe.

Maurice McCabe.

Annmarie Ryan said she hadn’t spoken to the Commissioner about this, but was assured by Ms O’Sullivan’s liaison, CS Fergus Healy, that this was the instruction.

In a note of a phonecall with him that evening, Ms Ryan wrote the words Political Dynamite.

Ms Ryan told the Tribunal that she knew the matter was politically sensitive and she could sense trouble brewing.

Noirin O’Sullivan was slated to give evidence tomorrow, but it’s likely that won’t happen until Friday or early next week.

- Digital Desk 

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