The Disclosures Tribunal has heard that Sergeant Maurice McCabe felt he was ambushed in bad faith by former garda commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan at a private inquiry.

The tribunal is examining whether Ms O'Sullivan relied on a false sexual abuse allegation or any other unjustified grounds to discredit Sgt McCabe at the O'Higgins Commission.

Today, counsel for the tribunal outlined a summary of evidence and played some audio extracts of exchanges from the second day of the O'Higgins Commission on 15 May 2015.

A row erupted early in that inquiry's hearings when lawyers for Ms O'Sullivan confirmed their instructions were to challenge Sgt McCabe's motivation and credibility.

Sgt McCabe's lawyer, Michael McDowell, told the O'Higgins Commission that it was inexplicable that the garda commissioner was querying Sgt McCabe's in this way, given what she had said and done in public.

He said that Sgt McCabe was not prepared to be ambushed in bad faith by a commissioner who was not a witness at the inquiry.

Mr McDowell also told Mr Justice Kevin O'Higgins that if allegations were to be made on behalf of the commissioner, he wanted her to be personally available to him for cross-examination, but he said he did not think she would enjoy the experience. 

The tribunal heard that two gardaí giving evidence at the private hearings of O'Higgins suggested that Sgt McCabe was motivated by a personal grievance that related to the aftermath of an investigation against him.

Sgt McCabe denied that was the case.

In 2006, Sgt McCabe was accused of sexually assaulting the daughter of a garda colleague. The DPP dismissed the allegation as it did not constitute a crime. 

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The tribunal has heard that Sgt McCabe later sought to have the DPP's directions circulated to certain parties and to have a declaration of innocence. 

It was suggested that when this was refused by gardaí, who said they could not intervene with a decision of the DPP, that Sgt McCabe was unhappy. 

The O'Higgins Commission was told that this was the reason why Sgt McCabe had made the malpractice allegations that were being examined by the commission.

Sgt McCabe told the O'Higgins Commission that was absolutely false. 

The tribunal heard today that this background was detailed in a letter from the chief state solicitor’s office on the third day of the commission, which sought to clarify the basis for the garda commissioner's instructions to her counsel.

It also emerged that when clarification was sought from Ms O'Sullivan as to her instructions, she telephoned a senior official at the Department of Justice while at the same time on a call to the garda legal officer at O'Higgins.

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Earlier, the tribunal heard Ms O'Sullivan instructed her lawyers to attack the motivation, credibility and integrity of Sgt McCabe at a private inquiry into malpractice allegations he had highlighted.

At the time, Sgt McCabe's lawyers strongly objected to the approach saying it was deeply wrong, shocking and childish.

The tribunal is examining whether Ms O'Sullivan relied on a false sexual abuse allegation or any other unjustified grounds to discredit Sgt McCabe at the O'Higgins Commission.

The extracts played today related to instructions given to counsel for the former garda commissioner and whether its lawyers were instructed to question the integrity and motivation of Sgt McCabe.

On the tape, Ms O'Sullivan's lawyer Colm Smyth SC confirmed that his instructions were to challenge Sgt McCabe's motivation, integrity and credibility in mounting his allegations.

Mr McDowell objected, saying it was being suggested that Sgt McCabe was responsible for some of the problems that arose.

He said people were trying to shoehorn Sgt McCabe into a position of responsibility. He said it was a childish and unworthy line of cross-examination and he was shocked to hear it.

Mr McDowell said it was astonishing that Ms O’Sullivan should feel that upholding her rights involved questioning the motive and credibility of Sgt McCabe and he said that was deeply wrong.

The chairman, Mr Justice Kevin O'Higgins, sought clarification from Ms O'Sullivan's lawyer, who confirmed his instructions were to challenge motivation, credibility and integrity right the way through.

Mr Smyth said one issue in relation to motivation was that Sgt McCabe had urged a member of the public one year after an incident to make a complaint to the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission.

Another was that Sgt McCabe was dissatisfied with a decision made by a chief superintendent in relation to the DPP's directions on an investigation into a 2006 sexual assault allegation made against him.

The tribunal also heard that the key questions in this section are to establish the case made by the former garda commissioner at O'Higgins and whether it was justified and whether it confirmed with Ms O'Sullivan's stated approach.

Kathleen Leader for the tribunal also said another question was how Sgt McCabe would have felt on hearing that approach. She said he was not a lawyer and he had come forward voluntarily, risking the disquiet of colleagues and superiors in order to seek improvement in policing standards.

She also outlined that Ms O'Sullivan's three lawyers at O'Higgins told her in an email that it would likely become necessary to rely on certain background issues in relation to Sgt McCabe's history with gardaí, specifically his conduct and interactions with senior management following a garda investigation into a 2006 sexual abuse complaint made against him.

This had been dismissed by the DPP as not constituting a crime.

The tribunal will be adjourned until Friday because of delays caused by the late discovery of evidence on the State side, the gardaí and the Department of Justice.