It is not a question of whether there was a Garda smear campaign against Sergeant Maurice McCabe. Rather, it is a matter of who planned and orchestrated it. For the first time since his prolonged agony began in 2008, McCabe was given the opportunity to speak publicly of his mistreatment by Garda management and some of his colleagues when he gave evidence at the Disclosures Tribunal in Dublin Castle on Monday 5th and Tuesday 6th March last. It was not new but it was devastating.
Leave aside the inevitable conflicts and confusion that have emerged as to what instructions the former Garda commissioners, Martin Callinan and Noirin O’Sullivan, did or did not make in order to discredit McCabe. The simple fact is that McCabe was the victim of a culture within the force that does down any member who does not abide by its code of loyalty. Not loyalty to the truth or the uniform but to protecting their own at all costs.
When it came to speaking out about the abuse of the penalty points system by probably hundreds of gardaí, from the rank of commissioner down, McCabe crossed the thin blue line. His efforts to highlight the fact that members routinely cancelled penalty points for family, friends, politicians, journalists and Garda colleagues lit the fuse which ultimately led to a systematic campaign to destroy his career and his life.
It is not so long ago that a garda who reported or charged another member for drink driving was committing a hangable offence, for the one doing his duty. It was beyond the bounds as it meant that the guilty drunkard would inevitably lose his job on conviction. So it did not happen.
In McCabe’s case, when he discovered how the internal Garda computer system, Pulse, was regularly abused to destroy evidence which could otherwise lead to the conviction of hundreds or thousands of people for drink driving or other offences, he became the target.
He was wrongly accused of failing to detain a man who went on to commit murder. He was blamed for disclosing a litany of failures by gardaí in the station in Bailieborough County Cavan when he was sergeant in charge in 2007. As was his duty, he had informed his district officer, Superintendent Mick Clancy, about the low standards of policing at his station and in particular the failure of members to investigate crimes, to execute warrants or to keep proper files.
He found himself accused of heinous crimes including the sexual abuse of the daughter of a colleague. When he was cleared of this charge on the instruction of the DPP, he found that it resurfaced time and again, not least whenever he blew the whistle on wrong doing within the force.
He found that complaints he was making to more senior officers were not being accurately reported and, in some cases, clearly distorted. On one notable occasion a reference he made to making a complaint “to Clancy” was wrongly described by an officer as McCabe making a complaint “against Clancy”. If he had not secretly taped this meeting with then Inspector, now Superintendent, Noel Cunningham, he would have been, in his own words, “buried”.
When he brought his concerns to the confidential Garda recipient who was expected to deal with such matters ‘confidentially’, all hell broke loose. It was then that the orchestrated campaign against him commenced from the very top.
It may be a coincidence that among those who, it is alleged, had their penalty points quashed was Martin Callinan, who, it is claimed, was determined to “bury” McCabe. Another was the Irish Independent journalist, Paul Williams who, in April 2014, revived the story of McCabe’s alleged abuse of a garda colleague’s daughter which the DPP had dismissed back in 2006. Williams was among those named in the Dáil as having had his penalty points quashed.
Worse still, Callinan was accused of suggesting that McCabe had sexually abused his own children. Callinan had described the whistleblowing of McCabe and another garda, John Wilson, as “disgusting” behaviour when the then commissioner appeared before the Public Accounts Committee in January 2014.
The following day Callinan met PAC chairman, John McGuinness TD, in the car park of the Red Cow hotel on the Naas Road in Dublin where the commissioner said, according to the politician, that McCabe couldn’t be trusted and had abused his own children and his nieces.
In 2016, the former Garda press officer, Dave Taylor, told McCabe that he had been instructed by Callinan to destroy him by leaking the false child sexual-abuse claims far and wide. “He has to be buried”, Callinan had told Taylor. Then assistant commissioner, Noirin O’Sullivan was the “pusher” of this strategy. That is what McCabe claims he was told by Taylor. Taylor appears to have retracted some of his claims while McGuinness is supporting McCabe’s sensational allegations against Callinan.
The smear campaign which was known to politicians, journalists and many members of the Garda, happened. It only remains to be seen who was ultimately responsible for it.
By Frank Connolly.