Wednesday 18 September 2019

Martin Callinan claims garda press officer planned to 'bring down' Nóirín O’Sullivan - Disclosures Tribunal

Garda Superintendent and former press officer David Taylor. Photo: Collins
Garda Superintendent and former press officer David Taylor. Photo: Collins
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

Former Garda commissioner Martin Callinan has alleged Supt Dave Taylor told him he was going to "bring down" Mr Callinan’s successor Nóirín O’Sullivan.

The Disclosures Tribunal has heard Mr Callinan alleges the conversation took place at his home in 2015, some time after Supt Taylor was arrested as part of an inquiry into the alleged unauthorised disclosure of information to journalists.

Counsel for Mr Callinan, Michéal P O’Higgins SC, said the former commissioner’s evidence was that Supt Taylor told him "he would bring her down because of what she had done".

Supt Taylor denied this allegation this morning, his fourth day in the witness box at the tribunal.

"Commissioner O’Sullivan and Commissioner Callinan were very close colleagues. I wouldn’t have said anything like that," he said.

Mr O’Higgins put it to him that at the time he had lost his balance and was making wild allegations about Ms O’Sullivan.

"I don’t accept that," said Supt Taylor.

The tribunal has previously heard how Supt Taylor was transferred from his job at the Garda Press Office to the Garda traffic bureau at Dublin Castle, a move he was said to have been "gutted" about.

He was subsequently arrested and suspended after being placed under investigation for the suspected leaking of unauthorised information to journalists. No charges arose from the inquiry.

A member of the investigation team was Ms O’Sullivan’s husband, Det Supt Jim McGowan.

Mr O’Higgins asked if Supt Taylor had been expecting the then-retired Mr Callinan to intervene on his behalf.

"Absolutely not," replied Supt Taylor.

"I didn’t seek any such intervention from him."

Supt Taylor added that he often called to the homes of former colleagues.

Mr O’Higgins said Supt Taylor had not gone to Mr Callinan’s house before, other than on official business.

The barrister suggested Supt Taylor had gone there for a purpose and that he was very disappointed when he was advised knuckle down, get on with things and do his best.

"I didn’t ask for commissioner Callinan’s help," insisted Supt Taylor.

In September 2016, while still under suspension, Supt Taylor made a protected disclosure alleging Mr Callinan directed him to negatively brief journalists that penalty points whistleblower Maurice McCabe had been the subject of a child sexual assault investigation, and that Ms O’Sullivan had knowledge of the smear campaign.

The accusations are denied by Mr Callinan and Ms O’Sullivan.

Sgt McCabe was investigated over the historical allegation and cleared in 2007.

Supt Taylor has previously given evidence that during the smear campaign he asked Mr Callinan for the "Ms D file", a file relating the sexual assault complaint against Sgt McCabe.

Mr O’Higgins said Mr Callinan "flatly rejects" this allegation.

Supt Taylor agreed that he could not give a date for when he made this request.

No file was supplied to him.

Mr O’Higgins put it to Supt Taylor that he had come up with a plan to shield himself from criminal and disciplinary proceedings he was facing.

The barrister alleged Supt Taylor decided what better way to do this than to portray himself as a victim and to align himself with Sgt McCabe.

He alleged Supt Taylor "had attempted to sell to Sgt McCabe what were a load of lies" and then “hawked around those lies” to journalists and politicians.

Mr O’Higgins said the purpose of this was to undermine Ms O’Sullivan and as part of that he had to attach Mr Callinan and then extended that out to Garda director of communications Andrew McLindon.

“This Tribunal is about your allegation in your protected disclosure. And it is not the truth,” said Mr O’Higgins.

Supt Taylor replied: "I don't accept that."

Tribunal chairman, Mr Justice Peter Charleton put it to Supt Taylor that he had a problem with Ms O’Sullivan and asked what the problem was.

Supt Taylor said he felt he was removed from his position in the press office when he had been doing a good job there.

He said it was a public move from a high-profile position to a less high-profile one.

“It was clearly seen in the Garda family as a move sideways,” he said.

Mr Justice Charleton asked if he accepted that Chief Supt Frank Clerkin, who led the investigation into alleged unauthorised leaking to journalists, had done a good job.

Supt Taylor accepted he had.

Referring to previous evidence that Supt Taylor had passed information to journalists after he was moved from the press office, the judge said Supt Taylor had been “breaking the Garda code left right and centre every single day almost for a period of over a year".

Supt Taylor replied that he regretted this, had let down his standards and had to live with it.

The judge asked Supt Taylor was he not grateful to Chief Supt Clerkin for stopping him in his tracks.

“I recognise my culpability and regret that,” Supt Taylor responded.

The judge asked Supt Taylor about texts he had deleted from his phone and whether any of these texts would have implicated Mr Callinan or Ms O’Sullivan in any plot against Sgt McCabe.

Supt Taylor replied: “No.”

Mr Justice Charleton also asked Supt Taylor about his relationship with Mr McLindon and why in one text message he had described him as “a rodent”.

Supt Taylor said people could regret texts after sending them and that Mr McLindon was “a very likeable individual”.

The superintendent has claimed he briefed Mr McLindon about the alleged order by Mr Callinan to negatively brief about Sgt McCabe.

However, Mr McLindon has said he was unaware of any order from Mr Callinan and would have been appalled if there had been any such direction.

Earlier this week, the tribunal heard that of eleven journalists Supt Taylor alleged he had negatively briefed about Sgt McCabe, four had denied ever being negatively briefed, while the remaining seven had not corroborated his account and had cited journalistic privilege.

One of the reporters claiming privilege is Conor Lally of The Irish Times.

Mr Lally’s solicitor, David Phelan, told the tribunal today that while his client was asserting privilege, he also wished to state that at no stage had any member of An Garda Síochána spoken to him about allegations of misconduct against Sgt McCabe, sexual or otherwise.

Tribunal counsel Diarmaid McGuinness SC said the tribunal had received correspondence from solicitor Simon McAleese, declining the opportunity to cross-examine Supt Taylor.

Mr McAleese is representing Eavan Murray of the Irish Sun and John Mooney of the Sunday Times, both of whom have asserted journalistic privilege.

Solicitor Michael Kealey, representing Debbie McCann of the Irish Mail on Sunday, also declined to cross examine Supt Taylor.

His client has asserted journalistic privilege.

Mr Kealey said his position was that he could not put questions to Supt Taylor without breaching that privilege.

John Berry BL, for Gemma O’Doherty, asked Supt Taylor about Mr Callinan’s reaction to the journalist calling to his home in 2013.

The tribunal has previously heard an article appeared the Irish Independent in April of that year saying the commissioner had penalty points quashed.

Ms O’Doherty, the author of the article, has told the tribunal she called to the commissioner’s house to check that the Martin Callinan living at that address was him.

Mr Callinan was not home, but she spoke to his wife.

Responding to Mr Berry, Supt Taylor said: “He was extremely annoyed and extremely angry that Ms O’Doherty had called to his house without notice and had spoken to his wife about penalty points.”

He told Mr Berry that Mr Callinan, who was abroad at the time, phoned him and asked him to express, at the highest level in Independent News & Media (INM), his annoyance at what he considered a breach of the code of ethics for journalists and to put across that queries should be put through the Garda Press Office.

Supt Taylor said he obtained a phone number for Michael Denieffe, then managing editor of INM, and a meeting took place a few days later at Garda Dublin metropolitan headquarters at Harcourt Square, in then Assistant Commissioner John Twomey’s office.

The superintendent said Mr Denieffe brought a female colleague with him.

Asked why the meeting was there and not at Garda headquarters in the Phoenix Park, Supt Taylor said Mr Callinan was a protected person and Assistant Commissioner Twomey, in his role at the time, would have in charge of personal protection and the protection of Mr Callinan's residence.

He said it was the only time while he was Garda press officer that he had been asked to arrange such a meeting.

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