The retired senior garda who carried out an internal investigation into the penalty points controversy has said he made a conscious decision not to speak to the whistleblower Sergeant Maurice McCabe as part of his work.

Former assistant commissioner John O’Mahony was giving evidence to the Disclosures Tribunal, which is examining an allegation of a smear campaign against Sgt McCabe.

Mr O’Mahony told the tribunal he suspected that Sgt McCabe was one of two people who brought complaints about penalty points from December 2012 but did not formally know he was until April 2013. 

Mr O’Mahony told the tribunal he decided to proceed with his investigation into penalty points without contacting Sgt McCabe, and a second whistleblower who had highlighted the controversy, because he believed he was precluded from doing so due to confidentiality reasons.

Mr O’Mahony said he was also aware of an invitation by then garda commissioner Martin Callinan to the whistleblowers to bring concerns to Mr O’Mahony.

The tribunal was shown a copy of a direction issued to Sgt McCabe in December 2012 by Mr Callinan, which was read out to the sergeant.

The letter asked the sergeant to desist from accessing the Garda Pulse system and disseminating information from it.

It also stated that if the sergeant had any further concerns, they could be brought to then assistant commissioner O’Mahony.

Lawyers for the tribunal put it to Mr O’Mahony that the tone of the letter was not very encouraging to the whistleblower to come forward.

Mr O’Mahony acknowledged that perhaps the language of the letter could have been somewhat different, but said he was satisfied with the letter and felt the direction by Mr Callinan was necessary.

Mr O’Mahony also rejected suggestions it was a box-ticking exercise to show the sergeant had been asked to participate in the investigation.

The tribunal has previously heard that former minister for justice Alan Shatter told the Dáil that the whistleblowers had refused to cooperate with the O'Mahony investigation.

Mr Shatter later apologised for the comment.

Mr O'Mahony told the tribunal that Martin Callinan had never spoken to him in a derogatory way about Sgt McCabe or any whistleblower.  

Mr O'Mahony said he did not get any sense of frustration or anger from Martin Callinan or did not see that during the Public Accounts Committee meeting on penalty points on the 23 January 2014.

He said that would have been out of character for the former Garda Commissioner.  

Asked about claims by three people that Mr Callinan spoke negatively about Sgt McCabe to them on the day of the meeting, Mr O'Mahony said he did not believe that the language alleged to have been used by Martin Callinan would have been the type of words he would have used.

Mr O'Mahony also said that he did not agree with an account in an RTÉ News report in February 2014 of Sgt McCabe's interaction with his investigation into penalty points.

The tribunal saw a copy of the text of the news report on the 24 Februrary 2014, which stated that Mr Callinan had written to the whistleblower 14 months ago and issued a direction to him to cooperate with the O'Mahony investigation.

The report stated that Sgt McCabe may have been on sick leave for a number of months from December 2012, and did not contact Mr O'Mahony until April 2013, by which time the investigation was completed.

The tribunal has previously been told that no explicit direction to cooperate was issued to Sgt McCabe.

The tribunal heard today that Sgt McCabe was summoned to a meeting where an instruction about the pulse system was read out to the sergeant, and the document also stated that he could bring any further concerns forward.

Lawyers for Sgt McCabe put it to Mr O'Mahony that it appeared that someone was spinning a deeply unfavourable story about Sgt McCabe to RTÉ.

Counsel for Sgt McCabe, Michael McDowell, said RTÉ Crime Correspondent Paul Reynolds, who wrote the report, did not manufacture the story himself, and that it must have come from somebody in the gardaí with knowledge of background facts.

Mr O'Mahony said this could potentially be the case.

He said he did not know where the information had come from, and it had not come from him.

The tribunal saw notes relating to a call between Mr O'Mahony and Sgt McCabe on 23 April, when Sgt McCabe contacted him to ask him why he had not spoken to the sergeant during the penalty points investigation.

Lawyers for the tribunal put it to Mr O'Mahony that he could have explained his reasons about confidentiality to Sgt McCabe at that stage.

Mr O'Mahony was asked about the fact that a senior officer was sent to speak to a relative of Sgt McCabe who claimed to have information about the quashing of penalty points.

Mr O'Mahony said there was never any intention to dig up dirt on Sgt McCabe, and that the person was interviewed because he had come forward with information, but nothing came of it.

Tribunal shown copies of text messages

The tribunal saw copies of text messages which the inquiry heard appeared to have been sent between Mr O'Mahony and Mr Callinan.

One text, addressed to John, stated that more should have been done by the investigation, and that the minister apologised to the whistleblowers and for misleading the Dáil on the cooperation issue.

It was sent on 26 March 2014, the day after Mr Callinan stepped down as garda commissioner.

Mr O'Mahony said he had no recollection of receiving the text but that it sounded like it would be relevant to him.

He rejected suggestions that it was a recrimination against him over the penalty points investigation.

He said it was probably Mr Callinan sending him a synopsis of what then justice minister Alan Shatter had said in the Dáil.

The tribunal was also told that Mr O'Mahony had a social friendship with journalist Paul Williams.

The tribunal has heard that in 2014 Mr Williams wrote a number of articles about Ms D, who made an allegation against Sgt McCabe in 2006 which was dismissed by the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Mr O'Mahony said he never discussed with Mr Williams any of the articles he wrote.

Evidence from senior garda who worked with Supt David Taylor

Earlier, a senior garda who worked with former Garda Press Officer Superintendent David Taylor said he was not aware of any attitude by the superintendent which was uncomplimentary about Sgt McCabe.

Superintendent John Ferris, of the Garda Office of Corporate Communications, was asked about evidence given by press officer Sergeant James Molloy last month.

Sgt Molloy told the tribunal that he had the impression that Supt Taylor was not on Sgt McCabe’s side, and Sgt Molloy said Supt Taylor was uncomplimentary about the whistleblowers and about journalists and politicians who supported him.

Today, Supt Ferris said he was not aware of any attitude or comment by Supt Taylor about Sgt McCabe.

Supt Ferris said he may have been more distant from Supt Taylor because he found him difficult and kept their relationship professional.

Supt Ferris was asked about queries sent in to the Press Office by a number of journalists during 2016.

The queries dealt with a number of issues including Nóirín O’Sullivan’s position as Garda Commissioner, her relationship with other senior gardaí, and her knowledge of an alleged smear campaign against Sgt McCabe.

The queries also included questions about comments made by TD John McGuinness claiming Mr Callinan had made negative remarks about Sgt McCabe.

Supt Ferris said emails of this kind would have been forwarded to the commissioner’s office for their input.

Tribunal Chair Mr Justice Peter Charleton questioned Supt Ferris about the reactions of people in the press office to these queries, and said the situation must have created some kind of stir.

Supt Ferris said there would have been some surprise but it was a case of sending the queries up the line.

Journalist says he was not negatively briefed by gardaí about McCabe 

An Irish Daily Star journalist has told the Disclosures Tribunal that nobody in An Garda Síochána briefed him negatively about Sgt McCabe.

Michael O’Toole, Crime Correspondent with the Irish Daily Star, is one of 11 journalists named by the former Supt Taylor, as people he briefed negatively about the Sgt.

Giving evidence to the tribunal today, Mr O’Toole said nobody in the gardaí had ever smeared Sgt McCabe to him.

He said he had heard a rumour about an allegation against Sgt McCabe from a journalist in 2011.

Mr O’Toole said he checked it with a contact and was told that the allegation had been investigated, and dismissed by the DPP.

Mr O’Toole said the matter was dead for him after that.

Lawyers for Supt Taylor put it to him that the superintendent had said negative briefing would have been opportunistic, that it could have come up at times when issues relating to Sgt McCabe were topical, and that it could have happened in person or over the phone.

Mr O’Toole repeated his position that he was not briefed negatively against Sgt McCabe by anyone in the gardaí.

The journalist is claiming privilege over his contact with Supt Taylor.