Belfast Telegraph

Tribunal slams top gardai for smear campaign

The Disclosures Tribunal found former Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan was part of a ‘campaign of calumny’ against whistleblower Maurice McCabe.

A tribunal investigating allegations that top police officers in Ireland orchestrated a smear campaign has found senior gardai officers had a plan to spread historic claims of sexual abuse about another officer.

The Disclosures Tribunal found former Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan was part of a “campaign of calumny” against whistleblower Maurice McCabe and he was actively aided by his former press officer Superintendent David Taylor.

The tribunal said it was convinced Superintendent Taylor “pursued a scheme that somehow evolved out of his cheek-by-jowl” working relationship with Mr Callinan.

The report found Sgt McCabe was a “genuine person” who at all times has “had the interests of the people of Ireland uppermost in his mind”.

It found he regarded those interest as “superior to any loyalty” which he had to the police force of the State.

“Neither interest should ever be in conflict,” it said.

The Disclosures Tribunal investigated allegations that Garda chiefs orchestrated a smear campaign, including false sex abuse claims, against Sgt McCabe – a scandal which almost brought down Ireland’s fragile minority government last year.

Superintendent Taylor, who worked for the press office between 2012 and 2014, had claimed he was ordered by Mr Callinan to negatively brief journalists about Sgt McCabe.

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Garda Sergeant Maurice McCabe (Niall Carson/PA)

The extensive interim report said it did not accept the evidence of Superintendent Taylor that he was given specific instructions by Mr Callinan to spread the false sex allegations and went on to described his evidence as “daft”.

It also labelled Superintendent Taylor as a witness whose “credibility was completely undermined by his own bitterness”.

It added: “The truth is that Superintendent David Taylor completely understated his own involvement in a campaign of calumny against Maurice McCabe.

“He claimed, for the first time, while giving evidence to the tribunal that he was acting under orders. That was not the case.

“The tribunal is convinced that he pursued a scheme that somehow evolved out of his cheek-by-jowl working relationship with Commissioner Callinan.

“Their plan was that there was to be much nodding and winking and references to a historic claim of sexual abuse while, at the same time, saying that the Director of Public Prosecutions had ruled that even if the central allegation did not have credibility issues, what was described did not amount to an offence of sexual assault or even an assault.”

It praised Sgt McCabe for doing a “considerable service” by bringing the matters of senior gardai manipulating and abusing penalty points to the attention of the public.

“He has done so not out of a desire to inflate his public profile, but out of a legitimate drive to ensure that the national police force serves the people through hard work and diligence,” it added.

“He is an exemplar of that kind of attitude.

“Notwithstanding everything that happened to him, he remains an officer of exemplary character and has shown himself in giving evidence to the tribunal as being a person of admirable fortitude.”

The report also found that there was no credible evidence that former Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan, who was Mr Callinan’s successor, played any part in the campaign orchestrated by Mr Callinan and Mr Taylor.

“All of the evidence is to the contrary in fact,” it said.

“One of the first things she did was to get rid of Superintendent Taylor, the incumbent press officer.

“She did this because she neither trusted him nor liked him. She reached out to Maurice McCabe and attempted to solve the workplace-related issues which surrounded him.”

It further stated that it was also “improbable that she did not have an inkling at the very least about Commissioner Callinan’s views”.

The tribunal, described as a “huge task”, sat for 102 days and examined tens of thousands of documents.

In further praise of Sgt McCabe, the tribunal stated that as a gardai, he was “concerned to maintain standards”.

It said that his focus was on the need of a police force to “respond efficiently to victims” and on the duty of everyone working in the public service to “question themselves as to what, in any day’s work, they had done for the taxpayer on that day”.

“This is laudable. It is also no more than is expected of any public servant,” it said.

The tribunal also cleared former Tanaiste Frances Fitzgerald stating that it accepted the evidence in her response to the O’Higgins Commission which was set up to investigate some of the original complaints made by Mr McCabe in relation to policing standards in the Co Cavan and Co Monaghan division.

“The tribunal accepts this evidence is an honest appraisal of the situation. It was not a lazy dodging of the issues but rather a considered response to the information,” it said.

It also stated that the former Minister for Justice and Equality had “selflessly” decided to resign in the national interest in November 2017.

The report also slammed public relations speak, stating that public life is dominated by spin and that plain speaking is “elided in favour of meaningless public relations speak”.

“This is a hideous development in Irish public life,” it added.

“Plain speaking by those who know what they are talking about is the only acceptable way to address the Irish people.”

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