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Monday 19 February 2018

Commissioner places star witness in inquiry under investigation

Garda Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan Picture: Colin O'Riordan
Garda Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan Picture: Colin O'Riordan
Niall O'Connor

Niall O'Connor

A star witness in the upcoming Peter Charleton Inquiry has been served with disciplinary action by Garda Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan in a move that has caused deep concern among the force.

Superintendent David Taylor was yesterday informed he is to face an internal investigation into allegations he leaked information to the media.

The news emerged during a tumultuous week for the garda force, which is now frantically preparing for potential serious reputational damage as a result of the evidence set to be heard at the inquiry.

As revealed by the Irish Independent yesterday, Mrs O'Sullivan is to appoint some of her close associates - two of whom are retired from the force - to an internal unit tasked with being the liaison with Judge Charleton.

Her associates include retired assistant commissioner Mick O'Sullivan, former chief superintendent Brendan Mangan and Detective Superintendent Tony Howard, who is a senior member of the Organised Crime Unit and the right-hand man of Det Chief Supt, Jim McGowan, the Commissioner's husband.

Despite the unrest caused by the appointments, Mrs O'Sullivan was last night showing no signs of backing down. There is, however, major question marks over how she could secure the appointments without first consulting the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (DPER).

Superintendent David Taylor Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Superintendent David Taylor Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins

The wage bills incurred by the two retired officers could be substantial - a tab that will be picked up by the taxpayer. It's understood, however, that justice officials did inform garda management in recent days they could put in the appropriate preparations for the Charleton Inquiry.

But whether Mrs O'Sullivan will survive until the outcome of that inquiry is another matter entirely.

For this newspaper can today reveal Sergeant Maurice McCabe - the key whistleblower at the centre of the inquiry - has written to Taoiseach Enda Kenny and the Policing Authority to demand the Commissioner steps aside.

Sgt McCabe, who was allegedly subjected to a smear campaign by senior garda management, has already told Tánaiste and Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald that Mrs O'Sullivan's departure from the post is a necessity.

Sources say he has yet to receive any meaningful reply from any of the aforementioned players.

But now, as the inquiry steps up a gear, the man who admitted involvement in the McCabe smear campaign has been put under yet another investigation. It must have been a case of déjà vu for Supt David Taylor, given that he faced the same allegation in 2015 - before being cleared by the DPP last month.

Read More: 'Ring of steel' to protect Garda chief in inquiry

Garda management claims it was merely following protocol by initiating an internal probe after the DPP found there wasn't sufficient evidence to prosecute Supt Taylor, who was recently re-appointed to his position following a 23-month suspension.

Chief Superintendent Jim McGowan Photo: Damien Eagers
Chief Superintendent Jim McGowan Photo: Damien Eagers

Supt Taylor's evidence is arguably the most important Judge Charleton will hear.

When Supt Taylor decided to make a protected disclosure, he took the biggest gamble of his life. Who knows whether it will pay off. One man who has staked his political reputation on the garda issue is Independent TD Mick Wallace.

He is in no doubt what the Government should do now if, as he says, "justice has any chance of prevailing".

"If the Government has any appetite for the truth, it doesn't make any sense for them to leave the Commissioner in position."

Irish Independent

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