Daly arrested, handcuffed, vilified - move along now, nothing to see here
Details of an innocent TD's arrest are leaked to the press, yet nobody is responsible, writes Gene Kerrigan
Published 22/05/2016 | 02:30
Clare Daly was driving in an unfamiliar part of south Dublin and took an illegal turn. The gardai stopped her and decided to breathalyse her.
It was about 15 minutes past midnight, January 29, 2013.
Daly may have felt nervous at the prospect. She had attended a meeting that evening and hadn't eaten; then she spent two hours with a family who wished to discuss a matter. There, suffering from a cold, she was offered and accepted a hot whiskey.
A GSOC report on the incident tells us what happened next.
The breathalyser didn't register anything, so the gardai decided to take her the 300 metres to Kilmainham garda station. It was 0.25am when they arrested and handcuffed her.
Daly protested at being handcuffed and was told that it was procedure.
At the station, a doctor took a urine sample. Gardai took a number from Daly to ring someone to notify a solicitor. There was no answer, so she gave fellow TD Mick Wallace's number. She was released about 1.30am.
About 25 minutes later, a garda put the arrest details into the Pulse system. In the hours that followed, there were 36 separate peeks at the info, as gardai from Kilmainham, Pearse Street, Coolock and Newbridge satisfied their curiosity.
(Asked later, the Newbridge garda claimed "a particular interest in traffic-related incidents.")
Someone called the Daily Star from a garda phone in an unlocked office and from another garda station office. By 11am, the tabloid knew of the arrest.
In the early afternoon, a garda typed up details of the arrest and emailed it to a senior officer. Apparently, gardai are under orders that senior officers be informed of incidents involving politicians.
Eventually, the email was forwarded to 57 people.
A total of 145 identifiable garda-related people got details of the arrest that day, plus those to whom they passed on the gossip - which put the figure into the hundreds.
The media started calling the Garda Press Office about 2pm. By that time, the gossip merchants already had the details.
Shortly after 4pm, Daly got a text from an RTE journalist: then a call from a second RTE journalist.
She agreed to an interview on the Six-One News. In that interview, she said she had taken one hot whiskey the previous evening and said if she was over the limit it was her responsibility.
As it happened, she had no reason to be nervous, she was well under the limit.
So far, this was an unremarkable occurrence - an adult had a hot whiskey, was stopped by the police, the alcohol level was so low as to be no problem. Only those of a schoolboy disposition would find it titillating.
The story now went into a second phase, as the media discovered that Daly had given the gardai Mick Wallace's number.
That evening, about 7.45, Wallace got a text from a Daily Mail journalist: "Sympathy for Clare?"
Two hours later, Daly got a text from the same journalist: "Understand you rang Mick Wallace TD on your allowed phone call by gardai. Why was that?"
The reporter texted Wallace: "Understand Clare Daly rang you Mick on her allowed phone call by gardai Why was that? Did you collect her?"
A detective garda, a friend of the Mail journalist, tweeted @ClareDalyTD: "How big was the hot whiskey? Boiling a bottle of Jameson & swallowing it doesn't count as 1." The detective referred to her as "a media-hungry attention-seeking savage complaining about information being given to the media hilarious". A tweet said: "@ClareDalyTD Probably a bit too late night or in the night to expect certain TD's to be sober at this late hour". Questioned by GSOC, the detective said he couldn't remember sending the tweets. He said that Twitter accounts can be hacked. Could they check his phone? Sorry, don't have it any more.
In the week before the exonerating sample analysis was released, politicised elements of the police and the media combined to destroy Daly's privacy. Social media sneered. The "gotcha" tone was unmistakeable. The libel-proof assault assumed her guilt.
It took GSOC over three years to investigate the leaks; it has yet to conclude an investigation into why Daly was handcuffed.
They checked out potential non-garda sources of the leak, including Oireachtas staff members, the doctor who took the urine sample and the taxi driver who took Daly home after her arrest.
None of these could have passed on the detail from the Pulse report.
So many gardai accessed the Pulse record and passed the gossip around that no one individual could be identified as the source of the media leaks, so there are no consequences for anyone.