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