Former garda superintendent has apologised for sending circular vindicating garda professionalism

By Gerard Cunningham and Declan Brennan

A former garda superintendent has apologised for sending a 2011 circular which stated that an internal garda inquiry into allegations of criminality and systemic failures in a local district had vindicated the professionalism of gardaí in the district.

Retired Chief Supt Colm Rooney told the Charleton Tribunal that he wrote the letter after a meeting in June 2011 with then Assistant Commissioner Derek Byrne, who had just completed an investigation into complaints made by whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe.

Colm Rooney, retired Chief Superintendent at the Disclosures Tribunal in Dublin Castle. Picture: Collins

The allegations focused around policing in the Baileboro garda district in Co. Cavan and were investigated by Asst Comm Byrne and Chief Superintendent Terry McGinn.

Mr Rooney said that in June 2011 Asst Comm Byrne came into his office and told him that the allegations made against him by Sgt McCabe were not upheld by his investigation.

He said the investigation was now complete and had identified no criminal conduct by any gardaí, the witness said.

As a result of what Asst Comm Byrne further told him, Mr Rooney sent out a circular to garda stations in the Cavan-Monaghan division.

The circular stated that the Byrne McGinn investigation found no systemic failures identified in the management and administration of Baileboro Garda district and no evidence was found to substantiate alleged breaches of procedure.

Mr Rooney went on to say in the letter: “I would like to congratulate all members who served in Baileboro. The findings of the Assistant Commissioner vindicate the high standards and professionalism of the District force in Baileboro.

“I appreciate the manner in which the members of the District participated in the investigation, were open and truthful in their account of events surrounding the allegations”.

Today, Mr Rooney told the Charleton Tribunal that these views were not a criticism of Sgt McCabe.

In its current module, the tribunal is examining whether unjustified grounds were inappropriately relied upon by former garda commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan to discredit Sgt McCabe at the O'Higgins Commission of Investigation.

The commission, which sat in private in 2015, investigated complaints made by Sgt McCabe about certain policing matters and about serious allegations against senior officers including then Garda Commissioner, Martin Callinan.

Mr Rooney said that in light of the findings of the O'Higgins commission and of the investigation conducted by Sean Guerin SC, he now believed the views expressed in the July 2011 letter were inappropriate.

“The views expressed in my letter congratulating were not appropriate. My vindication of the high standards was not warranted,” he said.

His apology was contained in his statement provided to the Charleton Tribunal last May. Michael McDowell SC, for Sgt McCabe, told the witness that his client was unaware of this until the statement was circulated this week, prior to Mr Rooney's testimony.

Mr McDowell thanked Mr Rooney for the apology. He said the contents of the circular "were generally known and generally accepted even though they are now known to be wrong."

Mr Rooney said that at the time he sent out the circular it was correct insofar as he was told in his conversation with the assistant commissioner.

Mr Rooney said he asked Mr Byrne if all gardaí fully cooperated with his investigation, and if all gardaí told the truth. He was told they had and asked if he could notify everyone of the results of the investigation.

"I was naturally very happy with what the assistant commissioner told me that there was no criminal activity taking place in my area of responsibility," Mr Rooney said.

Mr Rooney said that his vindication of high standards and professionalism in the garda district was not warranted in the circumstances, particularly in light of findings by the Guerin review and the O'Higgins Commission of Inquiry.

"I genuinely believed what I was told about the outcome of the Byrne McGinn investigation," said Mr Rooney, who retired shortly after the circular was sent out.

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