'It doesn't make any sense': Paragraph of letter drafted by garda legal team 'farcical', says Tribunal chair

Update 6.10pm:

By Gerard Cunningham

A senior garda who acted as former commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan's "eyes and ears" at the O'Higgins Commission of Investigation said he trusted other officers to provide accurate information about garda whistleblower Maurice McCabe in consultations with the commissioner's legal team.

The Charleton tribunal is examining whether unjustified grounds were inappropriately relied upon by then Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan to discredit Sgt McCabe at the O'Higgins Commission.

Chief Supt Fergus Healy, who acted as a liaison between the Garda Commissioner and the O'Higgins Commission, was today cross-examined by Michael McDowell SC, representing Sgt McCabe.

Fergus Healy

As part of his role, Chief Supt Healy organised consultations between the Garda Commissioner's legal team and other senior garda officers before the Commission began hearings in May 2015.

"The content of it was a matter for the contributors, who were required to ensure its accuracy," Chief Supt Healy said.

Chief Supt Healy said it was his belief that everything in a letter drafted by the garda legal team over the weekend after the second day of evidence at the O'Higgins Commission on Friday, May 15, 2015, was factually correct.

Peter Charleton

The letter was drafted after Michael McDowell SC, on behalf of Sgt McCabe, asked for the commissioner's legal case to be set out for the inquiry.

Tribunal chairman Mr Justice Peter Charleton said that one paragraph of the letter, which said an inspector was investigating complaints against a chief superintendent, was "farcical". Complaints against garda officers are routinely investigated by an officer of a higher rank.

"It doesn't make any sense," the chairman said.

Chief Supt Healy will return to complete his evidence on Monday, after which Ms O'Sullivan is scheduled to begin her evidence.

The tribunal continues on Monday.

Earlier: Garda liaison officer had 'no recollection' of apology made to whistleblower

By Gerard Cunningham

A garda liaison officer for the O'Higgins Commission has said he has “no recollection” of an apology being made to Sgt Maurice McCabe after an error stating the garda whistleblower had made a complaint against a senior officer was discovered.

The tribunal is examining whether unjustified grounds were inappropriately relied upon by then Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan to discredit Sgt McCabe at the O'Higgins Commission of Investigation.

Giving evidence to the Charleton tribunal today, Chief Superintendent Fergus Healy, the garda liaison officer at the O'Higgins Commission, said that the Garda Commissioner's legal team wanted to know what was the "triggering factor" which led to Sgt McCabe's various complaints, which were being looked at by the Commission of inquiry.

He said that a "genuine error" led to a document which mistakenly stated that Sgt McCabe had made complaints against a senior officer, Supt Michael Clancy. In fact, the document should have stated Sgt McCabe had brought complaints to the officer.

Asked if anyone has apologised to Sgt McCabe for the error after it emerged at the Commission of Inquiry in June 2015, Chief Supt Healy said he had "no recollection of an apology forwarded during my particular time".

Chief Supt Healy said it would be "completely wrong" not to apologise.

The tribunal also heard that the Garda Commissioner's legal team was asked by the legal team for Sgt McCabe if they accepted the finding of the O'Higgins Commission of Inquiry that aspersions against his character were wrong and unfair.

Michael McDowell SC, representing Sgt McCabe, said that at the outset of the tribunal hearings he was asked what case his client was making, and he wanted to know what case the Garda Commissioner's legal team was making about his client.

He asked Justice Charleton if Shane Murphy SC, representing the Garda Commissioner, was cross-examining on the basis that it was legitimate to question Sgt McCabe's motivation when he had made the complaints investigated at the O'Higgins commission of investigation and that it was not "wrong and unfair" as found by Mr Justice O'Higgins.

"If the tribunal is being asked to draw a different conclusion to Mr Justice O'Higgins I am entitled to know that," Mr McDowell said.

Mr McDowell said that Sgt McCabe was not the accuser at the O'Higgins commission, it was not an adversarial process, and the sergeant was called as a witness.

The tribunal chairman, Mr Justice Peter Charleton, said his terms of reference were to look at whether there were unjustified grounds used by the Garda Commissioner to challenge Sgt McCabe's credibility.

"Were there times at which you could legitimately challenge the credibility of Sgt McCabe, that it seems is what I am looking into," the chairman said.

Mr Murphy said that he was not seeking to appeal any findings made by the O'Higgins commission and that the garda commissioner fully accepted the findings in the O'Higgins report.

Mr Murphy said that Sgt McCabe had made serious accusations against senior officers, and it was reasonable and legitimate at the O'Higgins commission for the Garda Commissioner to seek to test the evidence.

 

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