Thursday 17 January 2019

Martin Callinan claims Taylor 'grudge' led to smear campaign allegations

Former Garda commissioner Martin Callinan. Photo: Tom Burke
Former Garda commissioner Martin Callinan. Photo: Tom Burke
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

A "GRUDGE" held by former Garda press officer Dave Taylor against then commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan was the trigger for allegations that a smear campaign was conducted against whistleblower Maurice McCabe, the Disclosures Tribunal has heard.

The claim was made by Ms O’Sullivan’s predecessor Martin Callinan, who alleges Supt Taylor decided that in order to make his story work he had to involve Mr Callinan in the alleged plot.

The tribunal is investigating allegations, made in a September 2016 protected disclosure by Supt Taylor, that Mr Callinan ordered him to negatively brief journalists that Sgt McCabe had been investigated over a child sexual assault allegation.

The penalty points whistleblower had been cleared of the allegation in 2007.

Supt Taylor claims the smear campaign, which he says lasted from mid-2013 to March 2014, was conducted with the knowledge of then deputy commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan.

Mr Callinan began giving evidence this morning and is expected to face questions for four days.

Under examination by tribunal counsel Pat Marrinan, he denied ever giving Supt Taylor such an order.

“I had no intention in the wide earthly world of doing down Sgt McCabe, nor indeed had I the time to do so,” he said.

Mr Callinan said he had “an opinion” as to the reason for Supt Taylor’s allegations.

Pressed on this, he said: “I am of the view and the belief that Supt Taylor, because of a grudge he bore against Nóirín O’Sullivan, embarked on this story.”

The tribunal had previously heard Supt Taylor was arrested in May 2015 as part of an inquiry into the alleged unauthorised leaking of information to journalists. The investigation did not result in any charges.

The former commissioner said that Supt Taylor came to his house after the arrest and told him he had “a huge grievance” about being moved to the Garda traffic bureau as the superintendent saw this as “a sideways move”.

Mr Callinan also claimed Supt Taylor made similar remarks prior to that meeting in the former commissioner’s home.

“He was extremely disappointed and angry that the commissioner [Ms O’Sullivan] had moved him,” said Mr Callinan.

“After his arrest and suspension he told me he believed commissioner O’Sullivan was the person responsible for having him arrested and he would bring her down.”

Mr Callinan continued: “On that basis, the superintendent decided that in order for the story to work he had to involve me in the process.”

Mr Marrinan asked Mr Callinan if he had linked the sexual assault issue with Sgt McCabe’s making of allegations about the fixed charge penalty system.

“Not particularly judge,” replied Mr Callinan.

He said the 2006 allegation of sexual assault “had absolutely nothing to do” with issues in An Garda Síochána between 2012 and 2014.

“Were you linking that to some improper motive that Sgt McCabe had for making his allegations about fixed charge penalty notices?” asked Mr Marrinan.

“No, I wasn’t,” Mr Callinan responded.

The tribunal heard on Thursday that in June 2013 Mr Callinan informed then Justice Minister Alan Shatter of the historical sexual assault investigation.

At the time complaints made by Sgt McCabe were coming to the attention of politicians.

Mr Callinan said Mr Shatter had asked if there was anything in the background. Mr Callinan said he felt he was “statutory obliged” to respond and inform him of the fact of the investigation.

He said he did not advance the view that the sexual assault investigation was the catalyst for Sgt McCabe making his complaints.

“I think the sergeant was entitled to make any allegation he saw fit. I wasn’t linking Sgt McCabe with any mala fides,” he said.

Mr Callinan was quizzed about claims by Fianna Fáil TD John McGuinness, Fine Gael TD John Deasy and Comptroller & Auditor General Seamus McCarthy that he made derogatory comments about Sgt McCabe to each of them individually on the margins of a Dáil Public Accounts Committee (PAC) meeting in January 2014.

The tribunal has previously heard Mr McGuinness alleges Mr Callinan referred to another Garda whistleblower, John Wilson, “pulling a knacker off a horse on Grafton Street” and said Sgt McCabe “fiddles with kids”.

Mr McGuinness claims Mr Callinan added: “That’s the type of f***ing headbangers I’m dealing with.”

Mr Callinan denied making these remarks and made a counter allegation against Mr McGuinness in a statement to the tribunal.

This was a claim that Mr Callinan asked Mr McGuinness if the PAC intended to call Mr Wilson as a witness, and that Mr McGuinness replied: “You must be joking, sure he’s a f***ing header.”

Mr McGuinness denies saying this.

But Mr Callinan today said he was standing over his account of the conversation.

He also said he was unaware of the horse story involving Mr Wilson.

While he was aware the former garda’s nickname was “Jockey”, he thought it was to do with the late Scottish world champion darts player Jocky Wilson.

Mr Callinan also denied making derogatory remarks about Sgt McCabe to RTÉ presenter Philip Boucher-Hayes ahead of an appearance on Crimecall in December 2013.

Mr Boucher-Hayes had been attempting to get the commissioner to discuss the penalty points controversy on the programme.

In a statement to the tribunal, the presenter said Mr Callinan told him Sgt McCabe was a troubled individual and had a lot of psychiatric issues.

Mr Boucher-Hayes said Mr Callinan also claimed Sgt McCabe was motivated by a set of grievances against Garda management and was not to be trusted.

Mr Marrinan asked Mr Callinan about his reaction to journalist Gemma O’Doherty calling to his home in April 2014.

The journalist wanted to verify that the Martin Callinan at that address was the Garda commissioner. Mr Callinan was not there at the time, but his wife confirmed it was his address.

Ms O’Doherty later published a story in the Irish Independent that Mr Callinan had penalty points quashed.

Mr Marrinan asked if Mr Callinan was aware of any other gardaí, apart from Sgt McCabe and Mr Wilson, who had been providing material from the Garda Pulse system to journalists.

Mr Callinan said he was not aware.

“I think it is a very strong possibility that was the situation,” he said.

Mr Marrinan put it to him that he was “very angry” about the journalist calling to his home.

“I was certainly angry about it. That is factually correct,” he replied.

The former commissioner was asked if he was also upset about the article appearing, but he said he hadn’t been.

“I certainly couldn’t be arguing with Ms O’Doherty publishing that story as she was factually correct,” he said.

Mr Callinan said he had been on duty going to an important meeting when he was caught speeding and that he later applied to have the ticket cancelled.

He said there was “nothing nefarious involved in that particular manoeuvre”.

Mr Callinan said it was possible Ms O’Doherty’s information came from Sgt McCabe or Mr Wilson, but he didn’t know if it was.

However, he said she was entitled to publish the story if she wanted to.

Mr Callinan said he told Supt Taylor to contact the newspaper to convey that he did not think it appropriate for a journalist to call to his home and that queries should be addressed to the Garda Press Office.

“I know he did that and subsequently reported back to me that he made that phone call,” he said.

He said he didn’t know the details of how a subsequent meeting on the issue between Supt Taylor, then Assistant Commissioner John Twomey and Independent News & Media managing editor Michael Denieffe at Harcourt Square was arranged.

Mr Callinan said Mr Twomey would have been in charge of policing in Dublin city at the time and would have had responsibility, among other things, for the security of his residence.

Mr Marrinan put it to him that this could have been regarded as an over-reaction.

But Mr Callinan said: “I think I was entitled to make that protest.”

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