Thursday 27 June 2019

Nine laptops used by ex-Garda chiefs missing, tribunal is told

Laptops unaccounted for: Former Garda commissioners Martin Callinan and Nóirín O’Sullivan. Photo: Damien Eagers/Irish Independent
Laptops unaccounted for: Former Garda commissioners Martin Callinan and Nóirín O’Sullivan. Photo: Damien Eagers/Irish Independent

Gerard Cunningham

Nine out of 11 laptops issued to former Garda commissioners Nóirín O'Sullivan and Martin Callinan used over a certain period of time have not been returned, the Disclosures Tribunal has heard.

The tribunal is looking at claims by former Garda press officer Superintendent David Taylor he was directed by Mr Callinan to brief the media negatively on whistleblower Sergeant Maurice McCabe. Mr Callinan denies this.

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

Supt Ryan said 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 her 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 bought 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.

Supt Ryan said 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 with data held on the file share.

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.

Earlier, the tribunal was also told Supt Taylor was not complimentary about Sgt McCabe or journalists who wrote about him. Sgt James Molloy, who works in the press office, told the tribunal he heard people discussing Sgt McCabe in the press office.

Supt Taylor was uncomplimentary about him, any journalist writing about Sgt McCabe and 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 Sgt McCabe felt this should not be on the Pulse system.

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 whether 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.

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

Supt Taylor did a lot of media briefings 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.

Meanwhile, a garda sergeant who worked in the press office told the tribunal he became concerned sensitive information was being leaked to journalists.

Sgt Damien Hogan, who continues to work there, said suspicions were raised when he saw newspaper articles that closely matched incident reports he had seen but which had not been made public.

He became concerned the press office was compromised after a call from a journalist some months after Supt Taylor had been transferred.

A journalist who had queries about a Child Rescue Ireland alert told Sgt Hogan: "I'm getting enough at the moment from Supt Taylor."

Sgt Hogan rang garda head of communications Andrew McLindon and the new press officer Supt Paul Moran.

"It wasn't his new role, it wasn't his role to be briefing the media," Sgt Hogan said.

Irish Independent

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