Monday 16 September 2019

Disclosures Tribunal: Ex-Garda press officer accused of 'false' and 'implausible' evidence

Former Garda press officer David Taylor at the Disclosures Tribunal
Former Garda press officer David Taylor at the Disclosures Tribunal
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

The Disclosures Tribunal has heard allegations made by a former Garda press officer were "inherently implausible" and "demonstrably false".

The claim was made by Rossa Fanning SC, counsel for journalist Paul Williams and Independent News and Media, after phone records appeared to contradict evidence given by Superintendent Dave Taylor.

The tribunal is investigating allegations by Supt Taylor that he was ordered by then Garda commissioner Martin Callinan, and with the knowledge of then deputy commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan, to negatively brief journalists about penalty points whistleblower Maurice McCabe.

The alleged smear campaign involved telling journalists Sgt McCabe had been at the centre of a child sexual assault investigation, allegations he was cleared of in 2007.

Mr Williams is one of 11 journalists Supt Taylor claims to have negatively briefed about Sgt McCabe between mid-2013 and March 2014.

Four have denied being briefed, while the remainder have not corroborated Supt Taylor's account and cited journalistic privilege.

journalist Paul Williams
journalist Paul Williams

The tribunal has heard Mr Williams published four articles in the Irish Independent in April and May 2014 after interviewing Ms D, the now adult complainant in the sexual assault case. The journalist gave evidence last year he interviewed Ms D after her father reached out to him.

Mr Williams testified that a few days after the interview he contacted Supt Taylor with a list of questions about the Garda investigation. He has also said he was never negatively briefed by Supt Taylor about Sgt McCabe.

But this week Supt Taylor claimed that while he had no role in setting up the Ms D interview, he did negatively brief Mr Williams about Sgt McCabe at some point. He also claims Mr Williams phoned him on Saturday, March 8 that year saying: "Guess where I am?"

Supt Taylor claims Mr Williams said he was at Ms D's house, had interviewed the family, and was going to write a negative article. However, under questioning from Mr Fanning, Supt Taylor was unable to say when or where he had negatively briefed Mr Williams.

Barrister Rossa Fanning. Photo: Maxpix
Barrister Rossa Fanning. Photo: Maxpix

The barrister said Mr Williams' phone records showed the journalist did not call Supt Taylor when the former press officer says he did. The records, he said, were consistent with Mr Williams's evidence and inconsistent with Supt Taylor's.

"I must suggest to you that we have an unhappy situation in that your testimony to this tribunal is almost devoid of detail or specifics in relation to the nature of your contact with journalists, specifically with Mr Williams," said Mr Fanning.

"But once you attempt to commit to specifics your testimony is seen to be demonstrably false."

Supt Taylor replied he was at the tribunal to give his evidence and it was up to chairman Mr Justice Peter Charleton to deliver a determination.

Mr Fanning said other journalists also disputed they were negatively briefed. He suggested the only rational explanation was that Supt Taylor's evidence was untrue. Supt Taylor replied: "I don't accept that."

Earlier, Supt Taylor denied seeking media and political support for a view that he was being unfairly targeted by a Garda investigation.

TDs Mick Wallace and Clare Daly met Supt Taylor at his house after he made a protected disclosure in September 2016 about the alleged smear campaign. At the time, Supt Taylor was suspended and under investigation for the alleged unauthorised disclosure of information to journalists.

Investigating gardaí recommended a prosecution, but this was not sanctioned by the DPP.

After the meeting, Ms Daly aired issues in his protected disclosure in the Dáil and called for Ms O'Sullivan to resign.

Asked by tribunal counsel Diarmaid McGuinness SC if he told the TDs he was unfairly targeted, Supt Taylor said there had been a robust investigation. He also did not deny the right of any commissioner to investigate a garda.

The tribunal was also shown a note made by Mr Wallace of the meeting and an alleged comment made by Supt Taylor about Ms O'Sullivan.

"He tells us that when she is sitting and she moves her seated position, she is telling a lie. He was referring to her appearance before the Justice Committee," the note said.

Supt Taylor denied saying this.

Irish Independent

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