The vin­di­ca­tion of Sgt Mc­Cabe

No grand con­spir­acy — but Charleton did un­cover a grubby at­tempt to smear Mau­rice Mc­Cabe, writes Maeve Shee­han

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - - Front Page -

THE Dis­clo­sures Tri­bunal re­port shows how a ter­ri­ble wrong can take on a life of its own once it gets into the pub­lic do­main; puffed up on po­lit­i­cal rhetoric, dis­torted by agen­das, fu­elled by lies. It makes the truth harder to find.

Af­ter a “dread­ful strug­gle to un­cover what may have gone on be­hind closed doors”, Mr Jus­tice Peter Charleton found no grand con­spir­acy of state agen­cies ranged against the Garda whistle­blower Sergeant Mau­rice Mc­Cabe, no ev­i­dence that the hor­rific false rape al­le­ga­tions against him were de­lib­er­ately man­u­fac­tured to tor­pedo his rep­u­ta­tion.

What he found was shock­ing and dan­ger­ous, but it was also pa­thetic, grubby and rather sad; that the State’s most se­nior garda be­came so con­sumed by the whistle­blower that he and his inept but will­ing press of­fi­cer em­barked on a cam­paign to smear his name.

It was an “ut­ter mys­tery” to Mr Jus­tice Charleton why the for­mer com­mis­sioner, Martin Cal­li­nan, chose Su­per­in­ten­dent David Tay­lor as his press of­fi­cer in the first place.

Charleton was told he was “tal­ented, ex­pe­ri­enced, ar­tic­u­late”.

“He is not,” said Charleton. “All of this is just plain un­true.” Nev­er­the­less, Tay­lor was a “con­stant side­kick” of the garda com­mis­sioner and “in and out of his of­fice” dur­ing his time as garda press of­fi­cer from 2012 un­til 2014.

Charleton said Tay­lor told a pack of lies to the tri­bunal but one of his “slightly closer to the truth” state­ments de­scribed a time when Garda man­age­ment’s frus­tra­tion with the whistle­blower es­ca­lated.

In 2013 as the penalty points con­tro­versy rolled on and Mc­Cabe gained cre­dence, se­nior Garda man­age­ment be­came more “frus­trated”. Shack­led from speak­ing pub­licly and pri­vately they wanted to “stick the boot in”.

The two men em­barked on a smear cam­paign that in­volved “much nod­ding and wink­ing” and “no smoke without fire” in­nu­endo about a child abuse al­le­ga­tion made against Mc­Cabe by the daugh­ter of a for­mer col­league, which had been thor­oughly in­ves­ti­gated and the Di­rec­tor of Pub­lic Pros­e­cu­tions said there were no grounds on which to pros­e­cute.

Cal­li­nan wanted to “hit back” by mak­ing sure jour­nal­ists were aware of the al­le­ga­tion, drop­ping it into the con­ver­sa­tion when talk­ing to them.

Tay­lor was a per­son who “would prom­ise much and de­liver lit­tle”, Charleton said. Cal­li­nan would have even­tu­ally seen through his “blus­ter and spoof ”. Charleton be­lieved that was why the coun­try’s most se­nior po­lice of­fi­cer, the man in charge of State se­cu­rity, be­came di­rectly in­volved in the smear­ing of Mc­Cabe. He de­cided that he would do a more ef­fec­tive job than “his in­com­pe­tent sub­or­di­nate had al­ready en­gaged in”.

Over two months, Cal­li­nan re­pul­sively den­i­grated Mc­Cabe to “at least” four peo­ple in cor­ri­dors and car parks: Philip Boucher-Hayes, the RTE jour­nal­ist John Deasy, the Fine Gael TD Sea­mus Mc­Carthy, Comptroller and Au­di­tor Gen­eral at a Pub­lic Ac­counts Com­mit­tee meet­ing, and John McGuin­ness, the chair of the PAC. Their tes­ti­monies turned out to be the only other ev­i­dence that di­rectly linked Cal­li­nan to the smear cam­paign.

That was the truth of the smear cam­paign against Sgt Mau­rice Mc­Cabe, Charleton found. Then David Tay­lor twisted the truth to suit his own ends.

By this time, the in­ter­nal Garda con­tro­ver­sies had spread to Govern­ment. Martin Cal­li­nan was one of the ca­su­al­ties, and Noirin O’Sul­li­van re­placed him as com­mis­sioner. One of the first things she had done was shift Tay­lor side­ways to traf­fic, be­cause she “nei­ther trusted him nor liked him”. Worse was to come.

By 2016, Tay­lor was un­der crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion, sus­pended and fac­ing dis­ci­plinary pro­ceed­ings for re­peated unau­tho­rised leak­ing of sen­si­tive in­for­ma­tion to the me­dia.

Tay­lor came up with a strat­egy to un­der­mine the crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion and dis­ci­plinary pro­ceed­ings and to get his job back, ac­cord­ing to Charleton — ef­fec­tively to jump on the whistle­blower band­wagon. He would cre­ate a fuss, get some pub­lic sym­pa­thy and claim he was ef­fec­tively be­ing set up by Garda HQ .

So it was that Tay­lor “spun a de­ceit” that Martin Cal­li­nan had or­ches­trated a smear cam­paign against Mc­Cabe, with the knowl­edge of Noirin O’Sul­li­van. Tay­lor di­min­ished his own role, claim­ing he was fol­low­ing or­ders. He took his story to Mau­rice Mc­Cabe and both made pro­tected dis­clo­sures.

“[Tay­lor] quickly en­sured that his sup­pos­edly con­fi­den­tial dis­clo­sure was made as pub­lic as pos­si­ble. He met press peo­ple... in­ter­acted with con­cerned pub­lic rep­re­sen­ta­tives. He claimed that he had been tasked by Com­mis­sioner Cal­li­nan to use ev­ery op­por­tu­nity pos­si­ble to brief the me­dia neg­a­tively about Mau­rice Mc­Cabe,” Charleton said.

Among those he briefed were in­de­pen­dent TDs Clare Daly and Mick Wal­lace, who cham­pi­oned Garda whistle­blow­ers. Tay­lor’s “pub­lic lie” was en­thu­si­as­ti­cally taken up and added con­sid­er­ably to pub­lic dis­quiet: “Fur­ther­more, it cast a pall of pre­tended de­ceit over the en­tire po­lice force. Then no one knew bet­ter. Now, they do,” Charleton said.

It came to a head one fevered week in Fe­bru­ary last year when the Dail de­bated how best to in­ves­ti­gate the dis­turb­ing al­le­ga­tions of a smear cam­paign against Mc­Cabe.

Bren­dan Howlin, the Labour Party leader, used Dail priv­i­lege to re­peat what a jour­nal­ist had told him: that O’Sul­li­van had told jour­nal­ists about the sex abuse al­le­ga­tion — which Charleton later found to be un­true. Days later, RTE’s Prime Time broke alarm­ing news that the child and fam­ily agency, Tusla, had falsely ac­cused Mau­rice Mc­Cabe of rape.

Tusla blamed a “tran­scrip­tion er­ror” that re­sulted in the wrong al­le­ga­tion of child rape go­ing on Mau­rice Mc­Cabe’s file.

The er­ror was no­ti­fied to Tusla but that failed to kill the false al­le­ga­tion, which con­tin­ued to have an “af­ter­life”, re­sult­ing in Mc­Cabe be­ing ac­cused of rape in a let­ter opened by his wife two years later.

An­other Garda whistle­blower, Keith Har­ri­son, weighed in with claims that se­nior man­age­ment had leaned on Tusla to in­ter­vene in his do­mes­tic sit­u­a­tion — a case so sim­i­lar to Mc­Cabe’s “it couldn’t be co­in­ci­dence” and had to come on or­ders from the “high­est level”.

Har­ri­son’s claims would also be scathingly dis­counted by Charleton.

At the time he was falsely ac­cused, Mc­Cabe’s com­plaints about the Garda were be­ing in­ves­ti­gated by a Com­mis­sion of In­ves­ti­ga­tion be­hind closed doors. It beg­gared be­lief that the false rape al­le­ga­tion was “co­in­ci­dence”.

Ac­cord­ing to Charleton, peo­ple were “jus­ti­fied” in sus­pect­ing that Garda HQ was ca­pa­ble of us­ing so­cial ser­vices to de­stroy the rep­u­ta­tion of one of its own mem­bers.

A few months later, the nar­ra­tive was again “ma­nip­u­lated” in a way that dam­aged Noirin O’Sul­li­van. “Se­lected ex­tracts” from the pri­vate Com­mis­sion of In­ves­ti­ga­tion were leaked to the me­dia.

The ex­tracts pur­ported to show how Noirin O’Sul­li­van had al­legedly told her le­gal team to at­tack Mc­Cabe be­hind the closed doors of the com­mis­sion, while ap­pear­ing to sup­port him in pub­lic.

“Pub­lic con­tro­versy flowed in florid form fol­low­ing on the de­cep­tion of the me­dia by the per­sons who leaked se­lected ex­tracts from the O’Hig­gins Com­mis­sion tran­script,” Charleton found.

The nar­ra­tive had “some­how trans­mo­gri­fied over time into an al­le­ga­tion that Mau­rice Mc­Cabe had been ma­li­ciously ac­cused be­fore the O’Hig­gins Com­mis­sion of mul­ti­ple and false sex­ual as­sault of­fences with a view to dam­ag­ing his cred­it­wor­thi­ness; that the Garda Com­mis­sioner had au­tho­rised this; that the min­is­ter had been in­formed; and that the min­is­ter [for Jus­tice, Frances Fitzger­ald] had stood back and al­lowed it to hap­pen”.

Both were vin­di­cated by Mr Jus­tice Charleton. The end­less con­tro­versy played no small part in Noirin O’Sul­li­van’s de­ci­sion to re­sign last year and forced the res­ig­na­tion as Min­is­ter for Jus­tice in De­cem­ber. Fianna Fail de­manded her head when emails sur­faced sug­gest­ing she was aware of the Garda’s le­gal strat­egy, hav­ing claimed she was not.

The full tran­scripts showed the al­le­ga­tions against O’Sul­li­van’s al­leged le­gal strat­egy were without foun­da­tion. The dis­clo­sures found no ev­i­dence that O’Sul­li­van had any hand, act or part in Cal­li­nan and Tay­lor’s cam­paign to smear Mc­Cabe.

Mr Jus­tice Charleton re­jected ac­cu­sa­tions that she had in­structed her le­gal team to make un­founded al­le­ga­tions against Sgt Mc­Cabe, and vin­di­cated and fully ac­cepted the ev­i­dence of Frances Fitzger­ald.

As Charleton noted, by then much dam­age had al­ready been done.

‘As Charleton noted, by then much dam­age had al­ready been done’

LAST Thurs­day, within a cou­ple of hours, two ma­jor po­lit­i­cal de­vel­op­ments oc­curred. First, around 1pm, we got the fi­nal, thor­ough vin­di­ca­tion of Sergeant Mau­rice Mc­Cabe. Sec­ond, around 3pm, we had the down­fall of De­nis Naugh­ten, the Min­is­ter for Din­ners.

The Mc­Cabe af­fair was pro­found. It dealt with ma­jor is­sues that af­fect the lives of the peo­ple. It was about ad­min­is­tra­tive and po­lit­i­cal ac­count­abil­ity.

It lasted years. It abounded with be­hav­iour that was heroic and be­hav­iour that was atro­cious.

The Naugh­ten af­fair was... well, oh dear. Triv­ial, point­less and fool­ish pretty much cover it.

It must be great to be Mau­rice Mc­Cabe, to know you’ve done the right thing, and to have that pub­licly ac­knowl­edged.

And it must be dread­ful to be Mau­rice Mc­Cabe. He’s been through hell — den­i­grated by se­nior of­fi­cers in a job he al­ways loved, held up be­fore an Oireach­tas Com­mit­tee as a “dis­gust­ing” in­di­vid­ual. And ac­cused of one of the worst of crimes, pri­vately lied about, pub­licly de­nounced.

It was bad enough that hap­pened to Mc­Cabe — to watch as the filth splashed across his fam­ily must have been sick­en­ing.

There must have been ter­ri­ble fear — that this would never end, or that it would end on a lie, with a fi­nal, crush­ing de­feat, without hope.

Which is pretty much how it’s ended for some of those who tried to do Mc­Cabe down. And no, that’s no cause for cel­e­bra­tion, ei­ther.

Mc­Cabe must be ex­hausted — phys­i­cally, men­tally, emo­tion­ally. Those who have been shred­ded by Judge Peter Charleton’s re­port can’t be feel­ing too good ei­ther.

Mc­Cabe needs time and space to come back from this. Without mak­ing a fuss, that should be ar­ranged.

It should have been a sim­ple mat­ter: a) polic­ing gone se­ri­ously wrong; b) a dili­gent sergeant re­ports it; c) those with man­age­rial re­spon­si­bil­ity take over and fix things.

In­stead, where Mc­Cabe’s al­le­ga­tions were not ig­nored they were given in­suf­fi­cient ex­am­i­na­tion. The mes­sage was clear: we are be­yond re­proach. To sug­gest oth­er­wise amounts to sub­ver­sion.

Mc­Cabe per­sisted and they tried to squash him.

We’re hear­ing me­lan­cholic vi­o­lins played for Noirin O’Sul­li­van. Yes, she’s ab­solved of re­spon­si­bil­ity in some mat­ters — but hold on a minute.

O’Sul­li­van sat shoul­derto-shoul­der with her boss, Com­mis­sioner Martin Cal­li­nan, while he de­nounced Mc­Cabe as “dis­gust­ing”. Her ev­i­dence on one mat­ter is de­scribed by Charleton as “dis­ap­point­ing”, a rather un­spe­cific word in a re­port noted for its ad­mirably frank, un­minced lan­guage.

In cir­cum­stances where they were tak­ing some risk, politi­cians such as Clare Daly, Mick Wal­lace, John McGuin­ness and John Deasy told what they knew.

In­di­vid­u­als such as Sea­mus Mc­Carthy (Comptroller and Au­di­tor Gen­eral) and Philip Boucher-Hayes of RTE did like­wise, when it would have been safer to qui­etly doubt their own mem­o­ries.

It was surely these ac­counts — sep­a­rate, with no axe to grind, noth­ing to gain — that im­pressed Charleton.

Only one politi­cian at min­is­te­rial level stood up dur­ing Mc­Cabe’s or­deal. It doesn’t mat­ter that some of us be­lieve that Leo Varad­kar has done real harm to this coun­try — in this mat­ter he took a risk in chal­leng­ing the “dis­gust­ing” la­bel be­ing ap­plied to Mc­Cabe and Garda John Wil­son.

His own Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, and all other min­is­ters looked away.

There’s a dan­ger that the Mc­Cabe af­fair will be re­duced to a sim­ple for­mula: heroic sergeant en­coun­ters uniquely vil­lain­ous bad guys and, af­ter many set­backs, is vin­di­cated.

In the 1970s, the Garda Heavy Gang beat peo­ple up. Politi­cians de­nied it ex­isted. Later, Min­is­ter Conor Cruise O’Brien re­vealed that gardai told him they beat peo­ple up. He ap­proved. His govern­ment con­tin­ued to pub­licly deny the beat­ings. It was all “Provo pro­pa­ganda”.

Back then, Vin­cent Browne in­ter­viewed one of the heav­ies, in this news­pa­per, and the man talked frankly of what they did, but no one cared enough to do any­thing.

In ev­ery decade since then there have been Garda scan­dals.

They’ve been re­ported and the re­ports dis­missed as sub­ver­sion. Politi­cians made it clear — the Garda can do no wrong. What­ever you do lads, like Cruise O’Brien we’ll pro­tect you. At the very least we’ll look the other way.

The no­tion that Martin Cal­li­nan and David Tay­lor are uniquely vil­lain­ous peo­ple, and the buck stops with them, is non­sense.

They acted as the Garda cul­ture told them they should — the way it’s al­ways been done.

When Mc­Cabe per­sisted, se­nior gardai were im­pla­ca­ble — and the or­di­nary mem­bers, through fear or loy­alty, stood idly by, at best.

Re­sult­ing in the mess de­scribed by Charleton.

If the blame is heaped on in­di­vid­u­als, there will be no real re­form. The cul­ture must be ac­knowl­edged and dis­man­tled. No small job.

Mean­while, De­nis Naugh­ten had his mind on din­ner.

Set­ting up ru­ral broad­band should have been a sim­ple mat­ter. It’s a tech­ni­cal task, with a fi­nan­cial cost.

Easy steps: a) ma­jor in­fra­struc­ture needed; b) min­is­ter sets a process in train; c) the process brings prac­ti­cal pro­pos­als back to the min­is­ter.

That’s all that was re­quired — po­lit­i­cal de­ci­sion, ad­min­is­tra­tive process.

But, in this coun­try, there are ways of do­ing things. Prime among them: the min­is­ter must put his or her stamp on the project — with re­sult­ing ku­dos.

And, of course, the pri­vate sec­tor must make a bun­dle out of it, and must be drawn in by the per­sonal mag­netism of the min­is­ter.

De­nis Naugh­ten has form.

Last April he took a call from a lob­by­ist who asked if Naugh­ten’s de­ci­sion on an is­sue would be A or B.

Dinny should have hung up. In­stead, he said what he thought he’d do. When this was re­vealed, he de­fended his right to ex­press an “opin­ion”. Dear God almighty. Lis­ten, Dinny: if you ex­press an opin­ion on an A-or-B de­ci­sion, and you’re the one who gets to make the de­ci­sion, you’re ac­tu­ally say­ing... oh, for­get it.

There were no con­se­quences for Dinny. And he learned noth­ing.

He should have had no role — none, none and none — in the broad­band process, un­til a bid­der and a busi­ness plan were brought back to him.

But Dinny, like all min­is­ters, wanted his name on the plaque. He would be Mr Ru­ral Broad­band.

So, when­ever the bid­der felt a bit peck­ish Dinny showed up with his knife and fork in hand.

Ah, sure, if ye’re hav­ing a bite your­self...

Dinny’s din­ners, where the elite meet to eat.

Politi­cians tell us Naugh­ten’s a sound man, so let’s ac­cept there’s noth­ing dodgy go­ing on. It wasn’t vil­lainy, it was fool­ish­ness, you say? OK, I’ll buy that.

Se­ri­ously, folks, these are the ba­sics of gov­er­nance. We’re go­ing to have to set up How-To-Be-A-Min­is­ter cour­ses to help these peo­ple get through the week.

Fix­ing the po­lice force will be some­what more dif­fi­cult.

Peter Charleton’s re­port su­perbly de­picts a force phys­i­cally and psy­cho­log­i­cally iso­lated, with a touchy cul­ture. His re­port should be taken as a start­ing point.

Omi­nously, Charleton him­self points to the range of re­ports — not least Judge Fred Mor­ris’s re­ports on the Done­gal scan­dals — which have been filed and for­got­ten.

‘When­ever the bid­der felt a bit peck­ish, Dinny showed up with his knife and fork in hand’

CLOSED DOORS: David Tay­lor (left) and for­mer Garda Com­mis­sioner Martin Cal­li­nan. The Dis­clo­sures Tri­bunal re­port praised Garda whistle­blower Sgt Mau­rice Mc­Cabe (above)

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