Friday, May 27, 2016
Martin Callinan's secret attempt to discredit whistleblower Maurice McCabe
Former Garda commissioner Martin Callinan met the then Public Accounts Committee (PAC) chairman John McGuinness in secret in 2014 to say that Sergeant Maurice McCabe was “not to be trusted”.
Mr Callinan and the Fianna Fáil TD had a secret 20-minute meeting ahead of the appearance of Sgt McCabe before the PAC at the height of the Garda crisis.
It has emerged that, at the meeting, which took place in the car park of Bewley’s Hotel on the Naas Road in Dublin on January 24, 2014, the commissioner sought directly to convince the PAC not to hear evidence from Sgt McCabe.
This was six days before Sgt McCabe finally did give testimony in private to the committee.
“Every effort was made by those within the Garda Síochána at senior level to discredit Garda Maurice McCabe,” Mr McGuinness told the Dáil during the debate on the O’Higgins commission report.
“The garda commissioner confided in me in a car park on the Naas Road that Garda McCabe was not to be trusted and there were serious issues about him.”
Mr McGuinness also revealed that he was told of “vile stories” about Sgt McCabe at the time which he said were “promoted” by senior Garda officers.
It has been confirmed to the Irish Examiner that it was Mr Callinan who sought the meeting with Mr McGuinness.
Calls to the former commissioner for a response yesterday from the Irish Examiner went unanswered.
The meeting took place in the days before Sgt McCabe appeared before the committee to outline his knowledge of extensive abuse of the penalty points system.
The previous May, an internal Garda investigation had found there was only minor abuse, but this result has since been discredited.
Sgt McCabe approached Mr McGuinness with his concerns over the loss of public money in the abuse of the penalty points system in November 2013.
Mr McGuinness determined that the PAC should hear from Sgt McCabe in a move that caused some unease in government and Garda circles. Mr Callinan, then the Garda Commissioner, voiced opposition to the hearing.
Six days after the secret meeting, on January 30, Sgt McCabe appeared before the committee behind closed doors for more than three hours. He was described by several committee members as a highly “credible witness”.
A week later, Mr Callinan appeared before the committee on the penalty points issue for nearly seven hours, during which he described the actions of Sgt McCabe and former Garda John Wilson as “disgusting”.
Speaking at Thursday’s debate about attitudes towards Sgt McCabe at the time, Mr McGuiness said: “The vile stories that circulated about Garda McCabe, which were promoted by senior officers in the Garda, were absolutely appalling. Because they attempted to discredit him, he had to bring forward various pieces of strong evidence to protect his integrity.”
Mr McGuinness went on to speak highly about Sgt McCabe’s bona fides and credibility in his dealings with him.
“In the workings of the Committee of Public Accounts over the past five years, one of the most impressive witnesses who came before us and the only witness who came before us in private session was Sgt Maurice McCabe,” said Mr McGuinness. “Everything he said was supported by documentary evidence.”
Sgt McCabe’s appearance before the PAC marked a turning point in the Garda crisis which ultimately led to the departure of Mr Callinan, the then justice minister Alan Shatter and his top official, Brian Purcell, later in 2014.
Last year’s Fennelly Commission report concluded that the visit by Mr Purcell to the home of Mr Callinan at the behest of Taoiseach Enda Kenny was the immediate catalyst for his retirement. However, the report also stated Mr Callinan decided to retire and that he could have decided otherwise.
Mr Kenny said it was correct that he sent Mr Purcell to Mr Callinan’s home to make it clear the grave concerns that the Taoiseach had.
Michael Clifford and Daniel O' Connell