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Superintendent made up smear campaign claims, ex-commissioner tells tribunal

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The tribunal, chaired by Mr Justice Peter Charleton, is examining claims of an orchestrated smear campaign against Sergeant Maurice McCabe.

Former Garda commissioner Martin Callinan arrives at Dublin Castle ahead of giving evidence to the Disclosures Tribunal (Eleanor Barlow/PA)

A former Garda commissioner has told a tribunal that claims he orchestrated a smear campaign against a whistleblower were made up by a superintendent with a grudge.

Martin Callinan, who retired as commissioner in 2014, told the Disclosures Tribunal on Friday that former press officer Superintendent David Taylor was angry with his successor, now-retired commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan, because he believed she was responsible for having him arrested as part of an investigation into media leaks.

Earlier in the week Mr Taylor told the hearing, in Dublin Castle, Mr Callinan had ordered him to brief journalists negatively about Sergeant Maurice McCabe – a whistleblower who made allegations including that penalty points were quashed by gardai – and Ms O’Sullivan was aware of it.

Mr Callinan said: “I’m of the view and belief that Superintendent Taylor, because of the grudge he bore against Commissioner O’Sullivan, that he embarked on this story.

David Taylor arrives at the Disclosures Tribunal (Niall Carson/PA)
David Taylor arrives at the Disclosures Tribunal (Niall Carson/PA)

“He was extremely disappointed and angry that the commissioner had moved him and subsequently, after his arrest and suspension, he told me that he believed Commissioner O’Sullivan was the person who was responsible for having him arrested and that he would bring her down, that was the expression he used.

“So on that basis I believe the superintendent decided in order for this story to work that he had to involve me in the process. That’s my belief, because there is no other explanation why he would say what he was saying.”

Mr Taylor has claimed Mr Callinan told him Sgt McCabe was investigated for a sexual offence in 2006 and it was fully investigated but the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) decided not to prosecute.

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He said the then commissioner told him Sgt McCabe was motivated by maliciousness and revenge following the investigation.

Garda police disclosures tribunal
Garda Sergeant Maurice McCabe was also at the hearing on Friday (Niall Carson/PA)

Mr Callinan told the tribunal: “I had no intention of doing down Sgt McCabe.”

He confirmed he told then Minister for Justice Alan Shatter, who gave evidence to the tribunal on Thursday, about the allegation after he asked for background information on Sgt McCabe.

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He said: “All I was doing was placing facts in front of the minister at the time as I knew them, it’s a matter of interpretation as to what precisely that meant.”

Sgt McCabe, who was at the hearing on Friday, has made specific claims of bad policing which have prompted a number of government-ordered inquiries, but the most explosive aspect of the furore is how he was allegedly treated by senior gardai in the decade after he first blew the whistle.

The tribunal, chaired by Mr Justice Peter Charleton, is examining claims of an orchestrated smear campaign against Sgt McCabe, made in a 2016 protected disclosure by Mr Taylor.

Mr Callinan denied saying negative things about Sgt McCabe to a number of individuals, including former solicitor Gerald Kean and RTE journalist Philip Boucher-Hayes.

He said when he used the word “disgusting” while speaking about allegations made by Sgt McCabe and fellow whistleblower John Wilson at a Public Accounts Committee meeting he was not referring to them personally.

He said the comment was “isolated and misconstrued” in the media and he had meant it to refer to the manner in which the allegations were being made publicly.

He said: “I would be the first to acknowledge that Sgt McCabe has identified and did identify weaknesses in the system, there isn’t a shadow of a doubt and I would be hypocritical to come in here and say otherwise.”

Mr Callinan is due to continue giving evidence for three days next week.

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