A Chief Superintendent has told the Disclosures Tribunal that the Garda Commissioner's lawyers advised that Sgt Maurice McCabe's motivation should be challenged at a private inquiry and they were pressing for the go-ahead.

The tribunal is examining whether then garda commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan inappropriately relied on unjustified grounds to discredit whistleblower Sergeant Maurice McCabe at the O’Higgins Commission.

The Garda liaison at the O'Higgins Commission, Chief Superintendent Fergus Healy, was questioned about Ms O’Sullivan's legal strategy at the hearings.

He said that counsel advised on the first day of the O'Higgins hearings on 14 May 2015 that they would need to address motivation and credibility issues on Sgt McCabe and they needed those instructions confirmed.

He said counsel wanted to know what triggered all the complaints.

When he spoke to the Garda Commissioner that evening, he said he told her that Sgt McCabe's request for the Director of Public Prosecutions' directions after the dismissal of a 2007 complaint against the sergeant, was refused at two levels.  

He said everything changed with him after that and counsel were advising that would have to be explored.

Chief Superintendent Healy said the Commissioner agreed that if that was what counsel were advising, then they should go down that area.

The next day, on the second day of hearings, Chief Supt Healy said he told Counsel the instructions were confirmed and they were relieved.

When a row broke out after the challenge to Sgt McCabe's motivation, he sought to reconfirm the instructions and made several calls to the Garda Commissioner.

He said he also asked counsel to put their advice in writing, possibly at the request of the Commissioner, and this came in an e-mail.

He said the atmosphere was tense, he had a "roomful of barristers" on the one hand and the Commissioner on the phone on the other, and he was in the middle. 

The Commissioner sought time to speak to the Department of Justice and also sought  an adjournment which was refused.

He said the Commissioner backed the advice and said it would be remiss of her not to agree, if that was what counsel were proposing.

He was also asked about an error in a letter to the O'Higgins Commission setting out the basis for the legal strategy, which said that Sgt McCabe had made a complaint against Superintendent Michael Clancy in order to get the full DPP directions.  

It should have said the complaint was made "to" Supt Clancy.

Chief Supt Healy said Chief Supt Colm Rooney and Supt Noel Cunningham were the contributors to the paragraph.

Mr Justice Peter Charleton asked how both got it "so badly wrong" as "against" was used twice.

Counsel for the tribunal, Kathleen Leader, said it suggested that Sgt McCabe only made a complaint against Clancy to get something he wanted which she said suggested blackmail although this was not the case.

Counsel for the Garda Commissioner at O'Higgins had advised it was of the utmost importance to check the factual accuracy of the document. 

Chief Supt Healy said he was not in a position to contradict what was in the letter.

Earlier the solicitor who represented a number of senior gardaí at the O’Higgins Commission has said her clients were under enormous stress during the inquiry.

Annmarie Ryan was giving evidence for a third day at the Disclosures Tribunal.

The tribunal is examining whether then garda commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan inappropriately relied on unjustified grounds to discredit whistleblower Sergeant Maurice McCabe at the O’Higgins Commission.

The tribunal was shown a copy of a letter sent by Sgt McCabe to the then Garda Confidential Recipient Oliver Connolly in January 2012, outlining complaints against senior gardaí, including an allegation of corruption against then garda commissioner Martin Callinan, which the O'Higgins Commission later found to be unfounded.

Ms Ryan told the tribunal that allegations against senior gardaí at the commission crumbled and fell away because there was no evidence.

She said her clients were under enormous stress, in some cases since 2008, and she had heard how this stress had affected their families.

Mr Justice Peter Charleton said that the hearings had also been a strain for Sgt McCabe.

The tribunal also heard evidence in relation to a written submission and letter to the O’Higgins Commission from the legal counsel for Ms O’Sullivan, outlining what it called the factual issues to be put to Sgt McCabe at the O’Higgins Commisison.

The submission was prepared after the dispute arose over the line of questioning of Sgt McCabe being pursued by the legal team in May 2015.

The tribunal heard details of an error that ended up in the letter submitted to the commission on 18 May 2015 and in a submission on 11 June 2015.

The error was contained in a paragraph dealing with a meeting in Mullingar between Superintendent Noel Cunningham and Sgt McCabe in 2008.

The error only came to light during Supt Cunningham’s evidence to the tribunal on 24 June 2015.

In a statement to the tribunal, Supt Cunningham said that he had read a draft of the document on his phone before it was submitted and due to poor eyesight did not see the error.

He also said that Ms Ryan had hurriedly asked him to sign the document without the opportunity to read it.

Today, Ms Ryan said she did not agree with that interpretation of it.

Ms Ryan was also asked about the findings of the O’Higgins Commission by Sgt McCabe’s legal representative Michael McDowell.

Mr McDowell said the O’Higgins report had found that some people had wrongly and unfairly cast aspersions on Sgt McCabe’s motives.

He asked Ms Ryan if she accepted that Justice O’Higgins found that the imputations of Sgt McCabe’s motives were unjust and wrong.

Ms Ryan said the O’Higgins report had been accepted in full by the Government and Ms O’Sullivan.

Inquiry told of 'chaos' in run up to O'Higgins Commission

The garda liaison at the O'Higgins Commission has told the Disclosures Tribunal that there was a tremendous amount of chaos in the run up to the inquiry.

Chief Superintendent Fergus Healy said Ms O'Sullivan appointed him two weeks before the hearings were due to begin in May 2015.

He said it was "all hands to the pump" and he did not even know who would be representing them.

He said he was a point of contact for An Garda Síochána with the inquiry and would attend daily, but there was no job description or defined role as such.

Counsel for the tribunal, Kathleen Leader, described him as the "eyes and ears of the commissioner" at the hearings as Ms O'Sullivan would not be there.

Chief Supt Healy had been a district officer in Cavan in 2006 when Ms D made her allegation of assault against Sgt McCabe.

Chief Supt Healy said he did not make any decisions in the case so there was no conflict of interest.

He met with legal counsel on 2 May 2015.

During that briefing, he said he updated them on the previous sexual assault investigation into Sgt McCabe.

This had been dismissed by the DPP in 2007.  

Chief Supt Healy said he had a certain amount of knowledge of those events and the outcome and had learnt more since, so he was in a position to advise counsel on it. 

Additional reporting by Sandra Hurley