Tuesday 26 March 2019

Journalists deny being negatively briefed about whistleblower McCabe

David Taylor at the Disclosures Tribunal at Dublin Castle yesterday. Photo: Damien Eagers
David Taylor at the Disclosures Tribunal at Dublin Castle yesterday. Photo: Damien Eagers
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

None of the journalists former Garda press officer Superintendent Dave Taylor claims to have briefed negatively about Sergeant Maurice McCabe have corroborated his story, the Disclosures Tribunal has heard.

Supt Taylor claims he was ordered by then-Garda commissioner Martin Callinan to smear Sgt McCabe's reputation by telling journalists the whistleblower had been at the centre of a child sexual assault investigation.

He gave the tribunal a list of nine journalists who he claims to have negatively briefed about Sgt McCabe.

The tribunal heard five of these journalists had denied ever being briefed in this way.

The other four have not corroborated Supt Taylor's claims and cited journalistic privilege.

The five who deny being negatively briefed are Paul Williams of the Irish Independent and 'Newstalk', Paul Reynolds and John Burke of RTÉ, Juno McEnroe of the 'Irish Examiner', and Michael O'Toole of the 'Irish Daily Star'.

Mr O'Toole said he wanted to claim journalistic privilege but that no senior garda had ever smeared Sgt McCabe to him.

Other journalists who cited privilege were Conor Lally of 'The Irish Times', John Mooney of the 'Sunday Times', and Cormac O'Keeffe and Daniel McConnell of the 'Irish Examiner'.

Under questioning from tribunal counsel Diarmaid McGuinness SC, Supt Taylor said he was unable to say where and when he had briefed journalists about Sgt McCabe. He said briefings were opportunistic and random.

Tribunal chairman Mr Justice Peter Charleton asked if he could give details of the specific reaction of any journalist, but Supt Taylor said the journalists "just took the information".

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He said briefings began after he was given an order by Mr Callinan in mid-2013 and ended in March 2014 when the commissioner resigned. At the time, he did not believe what he was doing was wrong but he subsequently realised it was.

Supt Taylor said Mr Callinan was "deeply frustrated" by the penalty points issue, highlighted by Sgt McCabe, was not dying down. He said he discussed Mr Callinan's order with then deputy commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan and also informed Garda communications director Andrew McLindon.

Mr Callinan and Ms O'Sullivan have denied knowledge of a smear campaign, while Mr McLindon says he was never told by Supt Taylor of any order to brief negatively against Sgt McCabe.

The tribunal heard there was a conflict between the evidence of Supt Taylor and that of journalist Paul Williams, who in 2014 published an interview with the young woman who alleged Sgt McCabe sexually assaulted her as a child.

Sgt McCabe had been cleared of the allegation in 2007 following a Garda investigation.

Mr Williams has given evidence that he contacted Supt Taylor about a week after meeting the woman with a number of questions about the investigation. But Supt Taylor said he thought Mr Williams had contacted him on the day of the interview, not with questions but to let him know it had taken place for information purposes.

Supt Taylor said he had not instructed Mr Williams to go there, but was pleased "because it would feed into the narrative, that a story would be written that would be negative to Sgt McCabe".

Earlier, the tribunal heard how Mr Callinan was annoyed when an article appeared in the Irish Independent in April 2013 saying the commissioner had had penalty points quashed.

Mr McGuinness told the tribunal that the journalist who wrote the article said she called to the commissioner's house to check that the Martin Callinan living at that address was him.

Mr Callinan was abroad at the time, but was "quite agitated" and felt it was a breach of his privacy, Supt Taylor said.

Supt Taylor said he didn't speak to the journalist, but did meet a few days later with then Independent News and Media managing editor Michael Denieffe. At the meeting, he said he and Deputy Commissioner John Twomey "passed on the annoyance and the concern of the commissioner".

Irish Independent

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