Sunday 22 July 2018

Former garda press officer fell into trap of 'getting a buzz' from media appearances, Charleton Tribunal hears

Former press officer Dave Taylor, left, with the then commissioner Martin Callinan and deputy commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan in 2013
Former press officer Dave Taylor, left, with the then commissioner Martin Callinan and deputy commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan in 2013

Gerard Cunningham

FORMER garda press officer Supt David Taylor was not complimentary about whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe or journalists who wrote about him, the Charleton tribunal was told.

The tribunal is looking at claims by Supt Taylor that he was directed by former garda commissioner Martin Callinan to brief the media negatively on Sgt McCabe, Mr Callinan denies this.

Sergeant James Molloy, who works in the garda press office, said that he would hear people discussing Sgt Maurice McCabe in the press office, though he could not recall who said what. He said that Supt Taylor was uncomplimentary about Sgt McCabe.

"Put it this way. It was clear if there was a side to be taken which side David Taylor was on, and it wasn't on McCabe's side," Sgt Molloy said.

Sgt Molloy said that Supt Taylor "would be uncomplimentary of Maurice McCabe. It would be uncomplimentary of any journalist who was writing about Maurice McCabe, any member of the Oireachtas who took his side."

Sgt Molloy said he was "vaguely aware" of a rumour of a sexual assault investigation, and that Sgt McCabe felt this should not be on the Pulse System.

He could not say when he became aware of this case. The DPP had recommended no prosecution as there was no evidence of a crime following the 2006 investigation.

Asked by tribunal barrister Patrick Marrinan SC if Supt Taylor was uncomplimentary towards Sgt McCabe because of the assault allegations or because he was speaking out on garda issues, Sgt Molloy said it was because Sgt McCabe was speaking out.

Sgt Molloy said he was not aware of a smear campaign against Sgt McCabe, and was never told to smear anybody.

Mr Marrinan said that Sgt Molloy was the only one of thirteen staff members in the garda press office, heard so far, who said that he had heard about Sgt McCabe during his work.

Sergeant James Molloy at the Disclosures Tribunal in Dublin Castle
Photo: Stephen Collins/Photos
Sergeant James Molloy at the Disclosures Tribunal in Dublin Castle Photo: Stephen Collins/Photos

Sgt Molloy said that Supt Taylor had "a tendency to gossip and chitchat in the office after an incident."

"I thought it was dangerous to be saying that in the press office, because that would bleed into the media," Sgt Molloy said.

"People shouldn't be reading about injuries to victims, the gruesome nature of crimes, in the media, or at least, we shouldn't be providing it," Sgt Molloy said.

The sergeant said that Supt Taylor did a lot of media briefings and "pieces to camera" during his time as press officer.

"There is always the danger in the press office of loving it, getting a buzz from it. I thought he had fallen into that trap," Sgt Molloy said.

Supt Pat Ryan, the head of the Garda IT section, told the tribunal that he had been asked in 2017 to identify all computer hardware used by former commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan from 1 July 2012 to 31 May 2014.

Supt Ryan said that garda computers were upgraded from Windows XP to Windows 7 at the end of 2014, and as part of this process, a File Share system was set up, and data was held on the File Share system.

Emails sent on garda accounts were archived, and even if an email was deleted from a local computer, it would not be deleted in the archive. Log-in details from computers were still available in audit logs, the tribunal was told.

Supt Ryan said that five laptop computers had been assigned to Ms O'Sullivan between 2006 and 2010, and these could no longer be recovered. A hard drive from an office desktop computer had been located.

No laptop was assigned to Ms O'Sullivan during her time as Commissioner. Two iPads used by the commissioner had been located, although one had a fault.

Four out of six laptops used by Mr Callinan could not be located, and one machine had been rebuilt and redeployed. Mr Callinan purchased the laptop he was using at the time of his retirement, which was reset to factory settings to remove garda data before he took it home.

Online Editors

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News