Belfast Telegraph

Whistleblower was to be targeted at inquiry, Garda HR chief claims

One of the top civilians in An Garda Siochana has said he was told Sergeant Maurice McCabe was to be targeted at a private inquiry into his complaints about bad policing.John Barrett, the force’s head of human resources, told the Disclosures Tribunal that a senior colleague made the reference as the O’Higgins Commission began hearing …

One of the top civilians in An Garda Siochana has said he was told Sergeant Maurice McCabe was to be targeted at a private inquiry into his complaints about bad policing.

John Barrett, the force’s head of human resources, told the Disclosures Tribunal that a senior colleague made the reference as the O’Higgins Commission began hearing evidence in May 2015.

Mr Barrett said the Garda’s former chief administrative officer Cyril Dunne made the remark to him and said “we are going after him at the commission”.

The HR chief, who also acted as a liaison for Sergeant McCabe, said he did not have a contemporaneous note of the exchange.

He said he did not initially realise the significance of it. He subsequently dated it to May 13 2015, the day before the O’Higgins Commission began hearing evidence.

Tribunal chairman Judge Peter Charleton asked Mr Barrett to provide the inquiry with a copy of his electronic diary in a bid to substantiate the time of the exchange.

Mr Barrett told the hearing that he was shocked by the remark and thought it was a joke.

“I may have thrown an expletive in there,” he said.

Mr Dunne has denied he made the remark.

Earlier, former tanaiste Frances Fitzgerald said she knew nothing about sex abuse allegations against a Garda whistleblower before she was promoted to justice minister.

In a second day of evidence to the Disclosures Tribunal, Mrs Fitzgerald corrected evidence she gave on Wednesday that she first knew about the unfounded complaint against Sergeant Maurice McCabe in April 2014.

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Former justice minister Frances Fitzgerald (Niall Carson/PA)

The former tanaiste clarified that she did not know about it until May 2014 when she was promoted from children’s minister to justice minister.

“That was a mistake,” she told the tribunal.

“I would not have been aware as minister for children. The first time I would have been aware was May, as minister for justice.

“My apologies.”

Mrs Fitzgerald also told the tribunal that she had not heard rumours about Sergeant McCabe before being appointed to the Department of Justice.

The Disclosures Tribunal is investigating whether unjustified grounds were used in an attempt to discredit Sgt McCabe at the private O’Higgins Commission in 2015.

That inquiry examined the sergeant’s claims of wrongdoing among gardai in Cavan-Monaghan.

Chairman Judge Peter Charleton asked Mrs Fitzgerald if she could explain why the terms of reference for his inquiry included investigations into whether the unfounded sex abuse allegation was inappropriately used by the Garda Commissioner to discredit Mr McCabe at the O’Higgins Commission.

The judge ruled that suggestion out last month.

He said the tribunal had to determine whether the former commissioner relied on other unjustified grounds to discredit the sergeant.

Mrs Fitzgerald said: “It’s very hard to say where exactly it arose from.

“It seemed to be an innuendo that was around. There may have been some media in relation to it. I suppose there was perhaps confusion.”

The tribunal also heard Mrs Fitzgerald got an unprecedented email direct from former Garda chief Noirin O’Sullivan on May 8 2016, the day she was to make a Dail statement on the whistleblower affair and leaks from the O’Higgins Commission.

It included a draft statement for the then minister, defending the then commissioner’s handling of the affair. It was written in the first person and referred to Mrs O’Sullivan in the third person.

Mrs Fitzgerald said she would not second guess why the commissioner had taken such an approach. She said her statement to the Dail was distinctly different from the email.

“I was always responsible for what I said in the Dail,” she said.

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