Garda denies doing or saying anything to allege Sgt McCabe was 'blackmailing' senior garda, Tribunal hears

By Declan Brennan

A garda superintendent has stated he did and said nothing that could have given rise to an incorrect allegation that garda whistleblower Maurice McCabe was “blackmailing” a senior colleague.

The allegation was contained in a letter handed in to the O'Higgins Commission on Monday, 18 May, 2015. The commission, which sat in private in 2015, investigated complaints made by Sgt McCabe about serious allegations against senior officers including then Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan.

The letter stated in error that at a 2008 meeting with Supt Noel Cunningham, Sgt McCabe said he made allegations against a senior officer, then Supt Michael Clancy, to force him to release directions from the DPP which had exonerated Sgt McCabe following an investigation into a child abuse allegation by “Miss D”.

The letter was part of legal submissions to the commission on behalf of the Garda Commissioner and other senior gardai, including Supt Cunningham.

Today at the Disclosures Tribunal, Supt Cunningham told Michael McDowell SC, for Sgt McCabe, that he travelled back to Dublin on the evening of Sunday 17 May and read the letter on his phone. He said he only received a hard copy of it the following morning and signed off on it.

He said there was a rush to get the document handed in to the commission and he didn't get to read the hard copy of it before signing it off.

Noel Cunningham arriving at the Disclosures Tribunal today. Pic: Rollingnews.ie

The document incorrectly stated that during the meeting on August 25, 2008, Sgt McCabe “advised Superintendent Cunningham that the only reason he made the complaint against Superintendent Clancy was to force him to allow Sgt McCabe to have the full DPP directions conveyed to him”.

Supt Cunningham told the tribunal that this was “clearly wrong” but that he didn't spot the mistake at the time.

“I should have seen it. I did not see it. Others should have seen it too but I made a mistake and it’s a pity I made a mistake.

“I’m embarrassed by the mistake. I’m embarrassed it caused any distress to Sgt McCabe,” he testified.

The tribunal also heard that a report which Supt Cunningham had written in 2008, which gave an accurate account of the meeting with Sgt McCabe, was also handed in to the Commission at the same time.

Asked by Michael McDowell SC, for Sgt McCabe, if the mistake in the letter was “counsel's error” the witness said it wasn't for him to apportion blame but added that he believed his instructions to the legal team were very clear at all times.

“You did and said nothing which could have given rise to that error?” Mr McDowell asked. Mr Cunningham said that was his belief.

Mr Cunningham said that in February 2008 Supt Michael Clancy assigned him to investigate complaints made by Sgt McCabe against Mr D, the father of Miss D and a serving garda.

He said that at all times he acted in good faith to try to protect the parties involved in the investigation. He said that his relationship with Sgt McCabe had been positive before this but it changed afterwards.

He said that a number of allegations made by Sgt McCabe against him were all subsequently withdrawn or found to have no foundation, he said. One allegation was that he had lied or covered up, the Tribunal heard.

“Other than corruption, this is as hurtful and as damaging as you can get. To this day, I cannot understand how Sgt McCabe made those allegations.

“It's being very difficult,” he said, appearing to become emotional at this point.

He said that suggestions in the media in 2016, arising from the leaks from the commission, that he was about to perjure himself at the commission in 2015 were “completely and absolutely false”.

The Garda’s head of human resources has said he did not “fabricate” an allegation against a former colleague and does not hold a grudge against him.

John Barrett.

John Barrett, the Garda's civilian head of human resources, told the Disclosures Tribunal last week that the garda former chief administration officer, Cyril Dunne, told him in May 2015 that “we are going after” whistleblower Maurice McCabe at the O’Higgins Commission.

He said he was shocked when he was told the news, as it jarred with the work he had been doing with Sgt McCabe. Mr Dunne denies making the remark.

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

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 Barrett last week said that he believed the meeting he described took place on 13 May 2015. Today, he said that he was unclear about the date but said “my uncertainty as to when this comment was made in no way reflects any uncertainty as to the comment”.

He said he had a visceral reaction to the remark because he felt it could damage the work he had done to build up trust between Sgt McCabe and the Garda organisation.

Asked by Mr Justice Peter Charleton why then he did not contact the Garda commissioner and say 'look there may be a problem here', Mr Barrett replied: “I very much regret not doing it. I was swept forward and let the matter unfold”.

Mr Barrett said it weighed heavily on him that he had done nothing and that Sgt McCabe trusted him.

Mr Barrett admitted he and Mr Dunne had a difference of opinion in relation to how the force investigated and dealt with financial irregularities at the Garda Training College in Templemore.

Michael McDowell, counsel for Sgt McCabe, asked the witness if it could be inferred that he had fabricated the remark attributed to Mr Dunne and that he did so in part to settle some score, a result of a grudge against Mr Dunne.

Mr Barrett said that none of those assertions were true.

“I feel no animosity for Mr Dunne and that is a matter of fact. I respect his integrity,” said Mr Barrett, adding that they shook hands at the Tribunal last month.

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