Fianna Fáil TD and former chair of the Oireachtas Public Accounts Committee John McGuinness has told the Disclosures Tribunal that former garda commissioner Martin Callinan told him the garda whistleblowers were "f****** headbangers".

Mr McGuinness is currently giving evidence to the Disclosures Tribunal, which was set up to examine the alleged senior garda smear campaign against Sergeant Maurice McCabe.

Mr McGuinness also said that after the PAC meeting on 23 January, as he approached Martin Callinan, the former garda commissioner went into a story about retired garda John Wilson.

He said that Mr Callinan said Mr Wilson was called to a disturbance on Grafton Street and in Mr Callinan's words "pulled the knacker off the horse, rode it back to the barracks and tied it to the railings - and the other fellow fiddles with children - they're the kind of f****** headbangers I'm dealing with".

The TD said Mr Callinan made these remarks in the company of then assistant commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan and former garda press officer Dave Taylor.

In his statement to the tribunal, Mr Callinan said they exchanged mundane pleasantries and he denies making those remarks. He has also said he could not be sure that Ms O'Sullivan and Supt Taylor were there.

Asked whether he had just overheard a story being told, Mr McGuinnesss said today that it was directed at him and clearly was being recounted for his benefit.

He said he judged that efforts were being made to discredit Sgt McCabe and to ensure the committee members would not go ahead. He said that he did not tell anyone because he did not want to distract from the commttee's work.

Mr Callinan has also disputed that he told that story about Mr Wilson. He has told the tribunal that he asked Mr McGuinness whether Mr Wilson would be called to give evidence and that Mr McGuinness replied: "Sure, you must be joking, he's a f******* header." 

Mr McGuinness told the tribunal today that he did not say that and he had the greatest of respect for Mr Wilson.


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The tribunal resumed hearings at Dublin Castle this morning following a break of a number of weeks.

This stage of the hearings will investigate the remaining terms of reference for the tribunal, including allegations of a smear campaign against Sgt McCabe.

The tribunal will examine what is alleged to have been discussed at a meeting between Mr McGuinness and Mr Callinan in a hotel car park in January 2014.

Mr Callinan acknowledges that he spoke to Mr McGuinness about Sgt McCabe, but denies the comments attributed to him.

Mr McGuinness is one of a number of witnesses scheduled to give evidence before the tribunal this week.

Among the other witnesses due to be called in the coming days are the Comptroller and Auditor General Seamus McCarthy, and Fine Gael TD for Waterford John Deasy.


The tribunal has heard that the former head of the Garda Press Office Superintendent Dave Taylor overheard then garda commissioner Martin Callinan use a term referring to child abuse in reference to Sgt Maurice McCabe in January 2014.

John McGuinness has been cross-examined by Counsel for Supt Taylor, Michael O’Higgins during evidence at the tribunal.

Mr O’Higgins said that Supt Taylor outlined what he had heard in a statement to the tribunal last year, in reference to a conversation that took place following the PAC meeting on the 23 January 2014.

Mr McGuinness has been giving evidence about the conversation during the Tribunal hearings today.

Mr O’Higgins asked Mr McGuinness if he believed Supt Taylor would have been standing sufficiently close to the conversation to hear the term used.

Mr McGuinness said he was sure that he could have heard. 

However Supt Taylor’s lawyer said his client did not have any recollection of an anecdote that Mr McGuinness claims Martin Callinan told about John Wilson during the same conversation.

The tribunal heard from counsel for John Wilson, that the anecdote related to an event in 1983 when Mr Callinan was serving in the same garda station as Mr Wilson.

The tribunal also heard evidence of a meeting between John McGuinness and Supt Taylor and his wife at a hotel in Dublin in January 2017.

Mr McGuinness has told the tribunal that Supt Taylor said to him that he had been instructed by Martin Callinan to circulate text messages briefing the recipients negatively against Sgt Maurice McCabe.

The tribunal heard that Supt Taylor acknowledges that he was instructed to brief negatively against Sgt McCabe but denies saying that this was done by text messages.

Counsel for Supt Taylor put it to John McGuinness that the impression the TD had that Supt Taylor had circulated text messages briefing negatively against Sgt McCabe was incorrect.

John McGuinness said he had given what was clearly his recollection of the meeting to the tribunal.

Mr McGuinness also told the tribunal he was not aware of any journalist or member of the Oireachtas who had received such a text message, and he had not seen such a message.

Under cross examination by lawyers for the former garda commissioner Martin Callinan, John McGuinness said Sgt McCabe was invited to give evidence to a private session of the PAC in the interests of "fairness and truth".

He also disagreed with a suggestion that the PAC was not unanimous in its decision to proceed with the penalty points investigation.

He said they had taken legal advice and it was never the intention of the PAC to disclose personal information.

Rumours around Leinster House

Earlier, the tribunal heard that rumours were circulating in Leinster House in the run up to Sgt McCabe's appearance before the PAC in 2014 that the whistleblower was a paedophile and that he was involved in issues around sexual abuse.

Mr McGuinness told the tribunal that alongside the effort being made by Sgt McCabe and others to highlight the penalty points controversy, there was a further effort being made to spread gossip and rumour in relation to the character of Sgt McCabe, and to the effect that he was not a credible individual.

Mr McGuinness said he did not know the source of these rumours and he ignored them.

He said the facts presented at the time by Sgt McCabe about the penalty points issue seemed to be credible.

Mr McGuinness said he confronted Sgt McCabe about the rumours directly and that the sergeant assured him they were not true.

The Fianna Fáil TD said he found Sgt McCabe to be an honest and straightforward individual, who was extremely proud of the uniform he wore, and upset at the stain that was on the uniform because of the penalty points scandal.

The tribunal was also shown correspondence between Mr Callinan and the PAC in relation to data protection concerns Mr Callinan had raised about the penalty points information that had been given to the PAC.

Mr McGuinness was asked about the appearance by then-commissioner Callinan before the PAC on 23 January 2014.

Referencing comments made by Mr Callinan describing the actions of the garda whistleblowers as "disgusting", Mr McGuinness said the remarks indicated the frustration and anger that was there at the meeting.

He said the "disgusting" expression clearly marked Mr Callinan’s attitude.

Counsel for the tribunal said that Mr Callinan’s "disgusting" comment referred to the manner in which the penalty points issue was being pursued by the whistleblowers, and not personally to the whistleblowers themselves.

Mr McGuinness said there was considerable pressure being brought to bear on members of the PAC so they would not pursue the penalty points investigation.

He said he was deeply upset and troubled that so many in high places would try to prevent the hearings going ahead.

Mr McGuinness said Martin Callinan told him that Sgt McCabe sexually abused his own family and an individual, and Mr McGuinness had made a grave error in relation to the PAC hearings on the penalty points controversy.

Mr McGuinness said Mr Callinan had contacted him to arrange the meeting and that he had presumed it would take place in the hotel.

Mr McGuinness said he saw Mr Callinan in the car park and the garda commissioner got into the passenger side of his car.

He said Martin Callinan gave him to believe there was in investigation ongoing in relation to allegations against Sgt McCabe, and that there was a file.

Mr McGuinness said he presumed that this was a file going to a prosecutor involved in the case, and that Sgt McCabe would be charged.

He told the tribunal he could only consider that prosecution of some kind was pending and that he had been wrong about Sgt McCabe, and he said that deeply worried him.

Mr McGuinness said, however, he arrived at the conclusion that the PAC had a job to do and this allegation had no bearing on it.

He said he decided after long consideration that he believed Sgt McCabe.

The tribunal also saw a copy of a note of the conversation that Mr McGuinness had written after stopping on his way home from the meeting.

The tribunal heard that eight other members of the PAC had told the inquiry that Mr McGuinness did not tell them about his meeting with Martin Callinan.

The tribunal was also shown a copy of a letter written to the inquiry by Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin in which he stated that Mr McGuinness had told him about the meeting with Mr Callinan.

In the letter, Mr Martin said that Mr McGuinness told him that Mr Callinan had said Sgt McCabe was not to be trusted and that he was a child abuser.

Mr Callinan has told the tribunal that during the Newlands Cross meeting, Mr McGuinness asked why Sgt McCabe was raising the allegations and that the TD asked whether it was because a file had been sent to the DPP and that Mr McGuinness was clearly already aware of the criminal allegation.

Mr Callinan has also said that he did not seek to discredit Sgt McCabe or undermine the PAC. Mr McGuinness said he did not raise the issue of a file and he was not aware.

Counsel for the tribunal, Patrick Marrinan, said their two accounts could not be reconciled. Mr McGuinness replied that the account he had given to the tribunal was completely true.

Additional reporting by Sandra Hurley