An astonishing campaign by two senior Irish policemen to smear the most high-profile whistleblower in the history of the force as a sex abuser was confirmed with the publication of a tribunal report.
The Disclosures Tribunal found that former Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan, the head of the national police force, and former press officer Dave Taylor deliberately spread derogatory remarks about Sergeant Maurice McCabe before he was due to give evidence at a hearing.
Malicious and completely spurious rumors spread that the whistleblower, Sgt McCabe, had raped a six-year-old child eight years previously just before he was due to appear before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) in January 2014.
Sgt McCabe, who was attempting to highlight wrongdoing involving the use of the Irish police force’s computer system, was completely unaware that the vicious rumors had been swirling around among senior policemen, politicians, and members of the media for two and a half years.
The findings of the tribunal, published yesterday, indicate that senior Gardai were alarmed by the evidence he was about to give to the parliamentary-appointed PAC in relation to inefficiencies or corruption within the police service.
The publication of the third interim report on the Disclosures Tribunal by Supreme Court Judge Peter Charleton Thursday afternoon has completely vindicated Sgt McCabe while confirming the appalling smear campaign against him.
“A person who stood up for better standards in our national police force, Sergeant Maurice McCabe, and who exemplified hard work in his own calling, was repulsively denigrated for being no more than a good citizen and police officer,” said Mr Justice Charleton.
“Worse still is the question of how it is that decent people, of whom Maurice McCabe emerges as a paradigm, are so shamefully treated when rightly they demand that we do better.”
After hearing more than 100 days of evidence in Dublin, Mr Justice Charleton found that the former senior policemen had engaged in a deliberate campaign to smear Sgt McCabe as a sex abuser.
The smearing included a documented meeting in the car park of a Dublin hotel when Commissioner Callinan told the member of the Irish parliament who chaired the PAC, John McGuinness TD, about the vicious rumor in January 2014.
Mr Justice Charleton found that the rumors had intensified in the run-up to Sgt McCabe’s scheduled appearance before the PAC when he was due to testify on matters relating to abuses of the Garda PULSE system.
Sgt McCabe was due to raise concerns that colleagues in the police force were using the computer system to allow high profile people to evade convictions over a decade previously.
The tribunal report states that Commissioner Callinan went on a "frontal attack" to denigrate the character of Sgt McCabe, by making derogatory comments to several important individuals, including members of the Irish parliament.
Commissioner Callinan had denied making the remarks around the time of the PAC’s investigations into abuse of the Garda penalty points system in 2014, but Mr Justice Charleton found against him after weighing up the evidence.
"As far as Commissioner Callinan’s state of emotion left him, it was only by a frontal attack that he might head off what he saw as the undermining of standards of duty and loyalty to which he had devoted his career,” found Mr Justice Charleton.
“That involved, regrettably, a pretense that Maurice McCabe was not only unreliable, but that reliance on him would be a trap, the springing of which, through him being charged with one or multiple sexual abuse allegations, would leave Deputy McGuinness looking more than foolish."
Mr Justice Charleton found there was a “meeting of minds” between the two senior police officers and that they acted together to ruin his good name.
The report also criticizes TUSLA, the Irish child protection agency, finding that an “unbelievable coincidence” caused an error made by a child counselor in 2013 – relating to a 2006 allegation against Sgt McCabe – to make its way to the Gardai in 2014.
Allegations which made their way to the police service four years ago were far more serious than the original claims of “horseplay” against Sgt McCabe in 2006.
The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) found that there was no basis for prosecution in 2007 after an allegation of “horseplay” was made against Sgt McCabe by the daughter of a Garda colleague the previous year.
“Yet, as it emerges, despite its bizarre nature, this was a genuine mistake,” said the tribunal report.
After examining the DPP’s finding in relation to the 2006 allegation, Judge Charleton found there was no basis for anyone to accuse Sgt McCabe of assaulting or sexually assaulting a young girl.
“Thereafter, there was no basis for accosting Maurice McCabe with this allegation or seeking to demean him,” said the tribunal.
“The reality is that someone within TUSLA realized that they had what they perceived to be unfinished business with Maurice McCabe and decided that for the avoidance of trouble, the business should then be dealt with. This was not, as was related to the tribunal, a coincidence. It is very disappointing that the tribunal could not have been told by TUSLA what actually happened.”
However, the tribunal report found that former Garda Commissioner Noirin O Sullivan, who succeeded Commissioner Callinan, had not participated in smearing the vicious rumors against Sgt McCabe.
Former Commissioner O’Sullivan had vehemently denied having any knowledge of them and refused to step aside pending an investigation.
She resigned following two unrelated scandals in September of last year and has recently been succeeded by the former Deputy Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), whose appointment also caused considerable controversy last month.
Outrage has been expressed in some quarters that the former link man between the PSNI and British security service MI5 is now chief of police in the Republic of Ireland, especially in the wake of the uncertainty caused by the Brexit border dispute.
However, others have welcomed the appointment of an officer from Northern Ireland as a significant cultural shift after a series of scandals involving the Gardai, including the falsification of drink-driving tests, the deletion of penalty points, implementation of reforms, and the smearing of Sgt McCabe.