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RTÉ crime correspondent says he was not negatively briefed about garda whistleblower

By Gerard Cunningham

RTÉ crime correspondent Paul Reynolds has said he was not negatively briefed by former garda press officer Supt David Taylor or by former commissioners Martin Callinan or Nóirín O'Sullivan about garda whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe.

The Charleton tribunal is looking at allegations by Supt Taylor that he was directed, when he was garda press officer, to smear Sgt McCabe.

Former commissioners Callinan and O'Sullivan deny there was any smear campaign.

In 2007 the DPP directed no prosecution after a garda investigation into abuse allegations made by a woman identified by the tribunal as Miss D, saying no evidence of a crime was disclosed.

Mr Reynolds said that he first became aware of Sgt Maurice McCabe in 2013, some months before the sergeant became a public figure when he appeared before the Public Accounts Committee.

Mr Reynolds said that he had heard four facts in relation to rumours about Sgt McCabe; that there had been an allegation, that there was an investigation, that a file was sent to the DPP, and that there was no prosecution.

"Once I heard the DPP had decided there was no prosecution, I felt it had nothing to do with me as a reporter," Mr Reynolds said.

"It was always in the context that there was nothing in it. And everybody seemed to know there was nothing in it," Mr Reynolds said.

Mr Reynolds said it made no sense to him that Sgt McCabe would be embittered because he had been exonerated by the garda investigation.

Supt Taylor has previously told the tribunal that he negatively briefed journalists including Mr Reynolds at crime scenes.

Former garda press officer Supt David Taylor

"That didn't happen, and anybody who knows how reporters work in the field knows that couldn't happen," Mr Reynolds said.

Mr Reynolds said crime scenes were very busy places, and he would not have time to talk about a second issue as he would be busy gathering information on what had happened, looking for witnesses, and preparing reports.

Mr Reynolds said he did not discuss allegations from Miss D with Supt Taylor, and did not know who Miss D was.

"I had no contact with either former commissioner in relation to the terms of reference of the tribunal," Mr Reynolds said.

Mr Reynolds said a conversation about Sgt McCabe at the Public Accounts Committee in January 2014 with media academic Colum Kenny "didn't happen".

The tribunal previously heard Mr Kenny testify that two security correspondents told him at a PAC meeting in January 2014 that Sgt McCabe had been investigated for abuse allegations.

"I do not wish to cast aspersions on him. The man is mistaken," Mr Reynolds said.

Mr Reynolds said that Mr Kenny had been writing disparagingly and factually incorrectly about him for the last five years.

He said a report on the RTÉ website on 24 February 2014 was written after he had sight of a direction from the garda commissioner to Sgt McCabe.

The news report said that Sgt McCabe had not co-operated with an internal garda inquiry headed by assistant commissioner John O'Mahony.

Mr Reynolds said he sought a response from Sgt McCabe and from Garda HQ to the story.

A response from Supt Taylor at the Garda Press Office was incorporated into the report that afternoon, and a response from Sgt McCabe sent to Prime Time was added to his report later.

Mr Reynolds said the response he received from Garda HQ "was an official, on the record confirmation from the garda press officer" that Sgt McCabe had not co-operated with the inquiry.

Mr Reynolds said he was not aware of a later email from Sgt Tony Connaughton in the Garda press office to RTÉ journalist John Burke which stated that there was no official comment put in the public domain from the garda commissioner.

"I got an official statement from the Garda press office, I put it on the record and I attributed it. If there were any problems I would have heard," Mr Reynolds said.

"I was never briefed by Supt Taylor that Sgt McCabe refused to co-operate. I never said he refused to co-operate," Mr Reynolds said.

Sgt McCabe in his response stated he was never directed to co-operate with the O'Mahony inquiry, and he would have done so if he had been directed to.

Mr Reynolds said he obtained a leaked copy of the report of the O'Higgins Commission of inquiry before publication in May 2016.

He said he could not reveal the source of the leak.

Recordings of various radio interviews featuring Mr Reynolds discussing the leaked report were played to the tribunal in the last hour of hearings.

The tribunal resumes tomorrow when Mr Reynolds' continues his evidence.