RTÉ Crime Correspondent Paul Reynolds has denied that he was part of a "conspiracy theory" involving former garda commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan allegedly influencing RTÉ broadcasts.

Asked by lawyers for Ms O'Sullivan whether he was part of a conspiracy, Mr Reynolds said that was clearly untrue.

The tribunal heard that Sergeant Maurice McCabe is standing over the allegation that Ms O'Sullivan was behind specific RTÉ broadcasts in May 2016 on the then-unpublished O'Higgins Commission report.

The O'Higgins Commission investigated matters relating to policing in Cavan-Monaghan.

Sgt McCabe has told the tribunal that he was told by An Garda Síochána's Executive Head of Human Resources John Barrett that the broadcasts must have come from Ms O'Sullivan.

Mr Barrett has disputed this evidence and said he never made that statement.

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Yesterday lawyers for Ms O'Sullivan had asked whether the claim was being maintained.

Today Sgt McCabe's lawyer Michael McDowell said the sergeant was not in a position to withdraw anything, as he had faithfully reported what he was told by Mr Barrett.

Mr McDowell said it was up to the tribunal to ascertain whether it was correct or not.

Tribunal Chairman Mr Justice Peter Charleton said the allegation had been "completely refuted" in the evidence of RTÉ Crime Correspondent Paul Reynolds.

Mr Charleton said that Mr Reynolds' evidence was that he had got the O'Higgins Commission report and talked to a number of people and based his broadcasts on what was in the report.

Earlier, Mr Reynolds has denied that he was negatively briefed by former garda press officer Superintendent David Taylor because he was "the most trusted journalist of them all".

Supt Taylor has named the journalist as one of eleven he alleges he negatively briefed about Sgt McCabe.

Counsel for Supt Taylor, John Ferry, suggested to Mr Reynolds that he was selected for preferential treatment for certain stories, therefore he was also selected for the alleged smear campaign.

Mr Ferry said Mr Reynolds was tipped off when former garda commissioner Martin Callinan was going to retire.

He suggested to Mr Reynolds that he was negatively briefed because he was the most trusted journalist of it all.

Mr Reynolds said he was not negatively briefed and he said it just did not happen.

Mr Ferry said the fact that Mr Reynolds had been told about the previous child sexual assault allegation against Sgt McCabe was an extraordinary piece of information to receive at the time of the penalty points investigation.

Mr Reynolds said he did not accept that and he could see there was nothing in it.

Mr Ferry said Mr Reynolds was like the lieutenant in the Naked Gun films, standing in front of a fireworks building, which was on fire with explosions, and the lieutenant was saying 'nothing to see here'.

Mr Reynolds told Mr Ferry he should work in television and he said it was not like that at the time.

Mr Reynolds rejected suggestions that he was going through the motions when he contacted Sgt McCabe the night before a broadcast on the then-unpublished O’Higgins Commission report in 2016.

Michael McDowell, Counsel for Sgt McCabe, put it to Mr Reynolds that when he contacted the sergeant on the night before the broadcasts he was putting him in the wholly embarrassing position that if he did comment he would be implicated in breaching the confidentiality of the O’Higgins Commission.

Mr McDowell put it to Mr Reynolds that he was going through the motions.

Mr Reynolds said he had a statutory obligation to seek a response from the sergeant in order to report on the matter in a fair and impartial manner.

Mr Reynolds told the tribunal that it was his decision to use the word lie in his broadcasts, in relation to a reference in the O’Higgins report that Sgt McCabe had told an untruth.

Mr Reynolds said that decision was unprompted by anyone else.

Mr McDowell put it to Mr Reynolds that by zeroing in on the ‘untruth’ reference, and never referring to the fact that Sgt McCabe’s evidence had been preferred to contradictory evidence of other gardaí given to the O’Higgins Commission, Mr Reynolds was giving the impression Sgt McCabe was an unreliable person.

Mr Reynolds said he was very conscious in his broadcasts to include the O’Higgins report finding that Sgt McCabe was never less than truthful in his evidence.

Mr Reynolds was also asked about a news report he wrote for RTÉ News on 24 February 2014 in relation to the interaction between Sgt McCabe and the internal garda inquiry into penalty points, led by then Assistant Commissioner John O’Mahony.

The tribunal has seen a copy of a direction from Mr Callinan, read out to Sgt McCabe in December 2012, which instructed him to desist from accessing the Pulse system, and also invited him to bring any further concerns to Assistant Commissioner O’Mahony.

Mr Reynolds has told the tribunal he had sight of this direction when he wrote his report on the 24 February, which stated that Sgt McCabe had been directed by Mr Callinan to co-operate with the O’Mahony investigation.

Sgt McCabe has told the tribunal he was never directed to co-operate.

Mr Justice Charleton put it to Mr Reynolds that the way the matter came over in his news report was that it was not an option for him to contact the O’Mahony investigation with concerns but that it was a direct order.

Mr Reynolds said the garda commissioner in a ranking organisation did not give sergeants options when he sent a piece of paper with the word ‘direction’ at the top, and said it was perfectly legitimate for him to report this as a direction.

The journalist also said he never reported that Sgt McCabe had refused to co-operate, but said that he did not co-operate.

Mr McDowell put it to Mr Reynolds that saying Sgt McCabe did not co-operate was untrue and indicated a deep prejudice against Sgt McCabe.

Mr Reynolds said he felt that it indicated the way he had behaved throughout which was to report the facts.

An Garda Síochána's Executive Head of Human Resources John Barrett has denied that he told Sgt McCabe that specific RTÉ broadcasts about the O'Higgins Commission report must have come from Ms O'Sullivan.

Mr Barrett said he made no such remark and he had no written record of it.

Sgt McCabe has told the inquiry that Mr Barrett told him and his wife Lorraine in their home on 31 May 2016 that the RTÉ broadcasts must have come from "block one Nóirín O'Sullivan".

Mr Barrett said there was no discussion of the broadcasts at the meeting on that day.

Earlier, RTÉ's retired chief news editor, Ray Burke, said he made an editorial decision that "lie" could be used in RTÉ broadcasts on the O'Higgins Commission report instead of "untruth".

Mr Burke said he told Mr Reynolds that a deliberate untruth could be called a lie and it was plainer English.

The tribunal has heard that, in the O'Higgins Commission report, Sgt McCabe was said to have told an "untruth" to a senior officer and he was aware.

Asked by counsel for the tribunal whether he was concerned that it tilted the balance unfairly against Sgt McCabe, Mr Burke said it was simple English and both words meant the same thing.

Mr Burke was asked about an email he sent to senior editorial staff in advance of the 9 May reports, suggesting a change to the first paragraph of the story.

His email urged a change to "avoid an accusation of bias" with a version which "did not put the boot in straight away" to Sgt McCabe.

Mr Burke said he believed that instead of a charge against Sgt McCabe, the opening paragraph should be a vindication of Mr Callinan.

He said the sentence should be positive and not negative.

He also said it was a slander on Ms O'Sullivan and everyone in RTÉ to suggest she would try to influence RTÉ journalists.

Additional reporting Sinead Morris