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Friday 15 December 2017

Commissioner's missing phone 'undermines' Charleton probe

Garda Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan Picture: PA
Garda Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan Picture: PA
Niall O'Connor

Niall O'Connor

The tribunal investigating an alleged smear campaign against Garda whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe has been "completely undermined" following confirmation that a mobile phone belonging to Garda Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan has gone missing.

Opposition TDs last night demanded an explanation from Ms O'Sullivan as to how crucial evidence sought by the Disclosures Tribunal appears to be no longer in existence.

Sources confirmed that Ms O'Sullivan has been unable to furnish Mr Justice Peter Charleton with a smartphone she used since her appointment. A mobile phone device belonging to former Garda commissioner Martin Callinan is also missing.

The revelations have been described as deeply troubling given that a star witness at the tribunal, Superintendent David Taylor, has claimed that he was directed to smear Mr McCabe by Mr Callinan when he served as the force's press officer.

He is also believed to have told the tribunal Ms O'Sullivan was complicit in the campaign against the whistleblower.

The news of the missing phones comes exactly two years after Supt Taylor was arrested for the alleged leaking of information to the media. During his arrest, Supt Taylor had his phone seized on the orders of Commissioner O'Sullivan's husband, Detective Chief Supt Jim MacGowan.

The DPP has since cleared Supt Taylor of any wrongdoing.

But it's understood that he has been unable to obtain his mobile phone for the purposes of his case in front of the tribunal because it is still in the custody of gardaí.

Supt Taylor's lawyers have sought the phone as part of a discovery order from the force's Charleton liaison unit.

As revealed by the Irish Independent, the unit is staffed by some of the Commissioner's closest associates.

These include retired assistant commissioner Mick O'Sullivan and former chief superintendent Brendan Mangan. The unit is headed up by Detective Supt Tony Howard, who was involved in investigating Supt Taylor over an unrelated issue.

Last night, Labour TD Alan Kelly described the revelations as "quite frankly incredible".

He expressed deep concern about the confirmation that Ms O'Sullivan and Mr Callinan's phones are missing. The former minister also raised a previous commitment by Ms O'Sullivan to put in place new procedures after the Fennelly Commission found that Mr Callinan had up to 10 bags of his belongings shredded following his retirement. Mr Fennelly had sought a number of items, including Mr Callinan's Sim card, but was told this had gone missing.

"New regulations and protocols were to be put in place at the highest levels in the Garda to ensure such behaviour and destruction of documents could never take place again. An assistant commissioner was put in place to make sure this happened," Mr Kelly said.

"If this was the case, how could the mobile phone of Commissioner O'Sullivan from the period in question now also be missing, considering she put in place procedures and protocols to make sure this never happened again?"

Fianna Fáil TD John McGuinness accused Garda management of showing "contempt" to the inquiry.

"We now need an FBI-style investigation into the actions of Garda management," Mr McGuinness said.

A Garda spokesman said: "An Garda Síochána is committed to co-operating fully with the Disclosures Tribunal. These matters you raised are before the tribunal and we are not in a position to comment at this stage."

Irish Independent

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