Sources didn’t pour poi­son in my ear or neg­a­tively brief me, says jour­nal­ist

Irish Examiner - - News - Ger­ard Cun­ning­ham

RTÉ jour­nal­ist Paul Reynolds has told the Dis­clo­sures Tri­bunal he did not be­lieve that sources were pour­ing poi­son in his ear or neg­a­tively brief­ing him when they spoke to him about a his­toric al­le­ga­tion made against whistle­blower Sgt Mau­rice McCabe.

Mr Reynolds was ques­tioned over notes he had taken dur­ing con­ver­sa­tions in prepa­ra­tion for an RTÉ broad­cast on May 9, 2016. The broad­cast con­cerned the leaked O’Hig­gins com­mis­sion re­port into com­plaints made by Sgt McCabe about polic­ing in the Ca­van-Mon­aghan di­vi­sion.

The tri­bunal is re­quired to look at whether for­mer Garda com­mis­sioner Nóirín O’Sul­li­van in­flu­enced or at­tempted to in­flu­ence, the RTÉ broad­casts, “in which Sgt McCabe was branded a liar and ir­re­spon­si­ble”.

The notes con­tained ref­er­ences to a 2006 al­le­ga­tion against Sgt McCabe of sex­ual abuse, which was in­ves­ti­gated and dis­missed by the DPP the fol­low­ing year, say­ing there was no ev­i­dence of a crime.

Mr Reynolds agreed this al­le­ga­tion had noth­ing to do with the O’Hig­gins com­mis­sion, but the con­ver­sa­tions were about polic­ing is­sues in Bailieboro, where Sgt McCabe had been sta­tioned.

Mr Reynolds said he made notes of the things he was told, but he had never used this in­for­ma­tion, and it was never broad­cast.

Mr Reynolds said ru­mours about Sgt McCabe were “around, in the ether”, but he did not fo­cus on them once he learned the DPP had dis­missed the case. “It wasn’t be­ing openly dis­cussed, neg­a­tively, but peo­ple knew about it,” he said.

Mr Reynolds said he did not con­sider as neg­a­tive be­ing told facts about the in­ves­ti­ga­tion and DPP de­ci­sion, be­cause he was be­ing told facts. He said he had the great­est sym­pa­thy for Sgt McCabe.

“I’m be­fore this tri­bunal to­day be­cause three peo­ple have made false al­le­ga­tions against me,” said Mr Reynolds. “No mat­ter what the tri­bunal de­cides, peo­ple will be dis­cussing them for the next 10 years. I cer­tainly wasn’t a party to any neg­a­tive brief­ing, I didn’t re­ceive any neg­a­tive brief­ing, and I didn’t be­lieve any of this stuff.”

Mr Reynolds said the tri­bunal chair­man should not rely on his notes on con­clud­ing any­thing be­cause they con­tained “bits and bobs” he was told, and were never in­tended to be “pored over by a highly in­tel­li­gent team of lawyers”.

Michael McDow­ell, ques­tion­ing Mr Reynolds on be­half of Sgt McCabe, said the notes were con­tem­po­ra­ne­ous, and recorded con­ver­sa­tions Mr Reynolds had with peo­ple.

Bar­ris­ter Noel Whe­lan said a per­sonal al­le­ga­tion against Ms O’Sul­li­van formed the ba­sis of a term of ref­er­ence of the tri­bunal.

Mr Whe­lan asked if Sgt McCabe was still al­leg­ing that Ms O’Sul­li­van per­son­ally pre­pared brief­ing ma­te­ri­als for Mr Reynolds be­fore the broad­casts in May 2016.

Sgt McCabe had al­leged the RTÉ broad­casts with Mr Reynolds were “planned and or­ches­trated” by Ms O’Sul­li­van per­son­ally, us­ing brief­ing ma­te­rial pre­pared at Garda head­quar­ters.

Mr Whe­lan said that John Bar­rett, the civil­ian head of hu­man re­sources for the force, who Sgt McCabe said was his source for the al­le­ga­tion, had given the tri­bunal a state­ment say­ing this did not hap­pen.

Mr McDow­ell said he would seek in­struc­tions overnight from Sgt McCabe, who “was de­pend­ing on a state­ment from Mr Bar­rett” in mak­ing the com­plaint. “He can only go on what he is told,” said Mr McDow­ell.

The tri­bunal con­tin­ues.

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