‘Important I didn’t favour any side’
RTÉ crime reporter Paul Reynolds has told the Charleton tribunal his record speaks for itself in reporting on An Garda Síochána.
Paul Reynolds wasn’t fed any scurrilous stuff about Sergeant Maurice McCabe, he told the Disclosures Tribunal yesterday.
RTÉ’s crime correspondent said none of the senior gardaí at the centre of the inquiry ever told him about the discredited allegation of child sexual abuse against the whistleblower sergeant.
Mr Reynolds also denied that he was influenced by anybody in Garda headquarters about a broadcast he made on a leaked copy of the O’Higgins report, which dealt with Sgt McCabe’s complaints of malpractice. Sgt McCabe had claimed that Mr Reynolds had made a “biased” broadcast in which he branded the sergeant as a liar.
“I never branded him a liar,” Mr Reynolds told the tribunal.
He did broadcast that the report had stated that Sgt McCabe told an “untruth” to another officer, except Mr Reynolds described this as a “lie”. This decision was taken after extensive consultation with editors and with dictionaries, which, said the reporter, confirmed to him that an untruth is a lie.
“I tried to be accurate, honest, fair, and impartial as I could be and tried to give the public an accurate reflection of what was in the report,” he said.
The broadcasts on May 9, 2016, form one of the terms of reference of a tribunal examining whether there were attempts to smear Sgt McCabe. He claims that Mr Reynolds’ broadcast portrayed the outcome of his complaints in a very unfair way.
The tribunal is to examine whether any influence was brought to bear from Garda HQ, and Nóirín O’Sullivan, a former Garda commissioner, in particular, on the broadcasts. Mr Reynolds denies this vehemently.
He spent most of yesterday in the witness box and will be back for more today.
The broadcasts were played for the inquiry. As far as Mr Reynolds is concerned, the material was not influenced by anybody. He got his hands on a copy of the O’Higgins report and that the whole basis of his story. He did admit that he spoke to some contacts prior to the broadcast but said none of that had any influence on him.
“I spoke to a number of people and I got various information but the only information I put in the public domain and published was based specifically on the contents of the O’Higgins report.”
The RTÉ crime correspondent is on a list supplied to the tribunal by the former head of the Garda press office, Supt Dave Taylor, who he claims are reporters he briefed negatively about Sgt McCabe. All of those on the list have either denied any such briefing or are claiming journalistic privilege. Mr Reynolds is among the former.
Supt Taylor has supplied very little in the way of specifics of how he briefed any reporter.
Mr Reynolds was also asked yesterday about his contacts with former Garda commissioner Martin Callinan. The tribunal was shown a text from Mr Callinan to Supt Taylor, on the morning of the commissioner’s resignation in March 2014. Mr Callinan texted Supt Taylor about his news: “Get it out quickly to the media before the fuckers do me. Tell Paul.”
Mr Reynolds initially refused to confirm that he had got a call from Supt Taylor that morning, but then Judge Peter Charleton intervened: “An awful lot of people are saying that Dave Taylor is lying and I need to sit down and see what has been proved and what has not been proved and you’re frankly standing in the way. I don’t see why.”
The witness responded that he wouldn’t dispute Supt Taylor on that point: “I’ll grant you that. If he says he rang me...”
Mr Reynolds was brought back to the meeting of the public accounts committee in January 2014 at which Mr Callinan issued his “disgusting” remark about the whistleblower’s actions.
The tribunal has already heard that on that day, Mr Callinan made remarks, ranging from disparaging to outrageous, about Sgt McCabe to TDs John Deasy and John McGuinness, and comptroller and auditor general Seamus McCarthy. Mr Callinan denies this.
Mr Reynolds was asked whether the commissioner spoke to him in Leinster House that day. “I met him in the bathroom and he shook his head and knew he shouldn’t have said the word ‘disgusting’. There was no further conversation with it.”
It was pointed out to Mr Reynolds that his fellow RTÉ journalist, Philip BoucherHayes, told the tribunal that in December 2013, Mr Calliformed nan made disparaging remarks to him about Sgt McCabe. (Mr Callinan also denies this).
Yet despite considerable phone and text traffic between Mr Reynolds and Mr Callinan, there was never a bad word uttered about Sgt McCabe. “Martin Callinan never spoke to me in any way derogatory about St McCabe. Never,” replied the witness.
Other sources told him about the allegation made against Sgt McCabe in 2006 by the daughter of a colleague, which ultimately was comprehensively dismissed by all investigating bodies. However, these sources were just providing background to Sgt McCabe’s story, and not using the matter to have a go at the whistleblower.
“I never got the sense from people I was talking to that they were pouring poison in my ear,” he said.
“There was no persistent hammering away, giving you negative stuff about Sgt McCabe.”
His cross-examination continues today.
RTÉ crime correspondent Paul Reynolds at Dublin Castle for the Disclosures Tribunal hearing yesterday.