Saturday 21 September 2019

No files on 'privileged' garda computer systems portraying whistleblower and former press officer 'in derogatory light', tribunal told

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

Gerard Cunningham

There are no files on "privileged" garda computer systems and files in the Security & Intelligence Section portraying whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe and former press officer Supt David Taylor as targets or "as a suspect or in a derogatory light", the Charleton tribunal was told.

Peter Kirwan, a former detective chief superintendent who worked in the Security and Intelligence Section (formerly Crime & Security Branch) until last year, was asked by the tribunal to search the section's files and computer systems for any intelligence files in existence on Sgt McCabe, or on a computer system called Oisin at garda HQ.

The tribunal is examining allegations 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.

Mr Kirwan was also asked to examine whether whether intelligence files were kept in Garda HQ on any garda under investigation which were colloquially known as the "corruption file", and if any such file was kept on either Supt Taylor or Sgt McCabe, and whether a phone tap was placed on Sgt McCabe's phones.

He told the tribunal that before the 1990s, records in the Security & Intelligence section were paper based and computerisation began in that decade. It was hoped that eventually all records would be computerised.

He said there was a Security & Intelligence database system known as Oisin, which was introduced in 2015 and replaced a previous system called Verity.

In his report on the searches for the tribunal, Mr Kirwan said that there was "no file or document held whatsoever which presents Sgt McCabe as a target of An Garda Síochána, or as a suspect or in a derogatory light”.

Garda files contained records of an Operation Oisin crime prevention scheme in October 1998, and an Oisin Programme in 1998, relating to multi-agency information exchanges, but neither of these programmes referred to Sgt McCabe in any way.

Files in the intelligence section recorded Sgt McCabe as a member of a garda search team in a drugs operation in Clones in 2002, and a smuggling investigation in 1989, Mr Kirwan said. Other hits on the name, McCabe, mentioned in intelligence systems were not Sgt McCabe but other people with the same surname.

Mr Kirwan said there was a folder called "Corruption in public office" in the National Criminal Intelligence Unit (NCIU), which contained "information, reports and intelligence pertaining to misconduct in public office", such as if a garda was alleged to be involved in drug trafficking or passing information to criminals.

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

He said there was no mention in those files of Sgt McCabe or Supt Taylor in relation to any garda operation. Supt Taylor's name did appear multiple times in the Verity system in the context of his duties, and once on Oisin.

"For the avoidance of doubt, I can confirm there is no file or document whatsoever which presents Supt David Taylor as a target of An Garda Síochána, a suspect or in a derogatory light," Mr Kirwan reported. A second NCIU file, the "Corruption Index", was a statistical report only.

Mr Kirwan also searched for any application for a telephone interception placed on Sgt McCabe between January 2009 and November 2016. There was no application for any lawful authorisation for phone intercept on anyone of that name, Mr Kirwan said.

Applications were made for telephone data relating to Supt Taylor as part of a criminal investigation into unauthorised disclosures to journalists, Mr Kirwan said. A total of ten applications were processed in relation to the investigation. One of these was for a journalist's phone and was refused.

Det Supt Brian Brunton gave evidence that searches of garda computer systems were made in the presence of tribunal chairman Justice Peter Charleton when he visited Garda headquarters on 31 July 2017.

The tribunal chairman provided the Security & Intelligence Section with keywords to search, which included McCabe, Maurice, Rat, Oisin, Whistle, Blower, Whistleblower, Person of the year, child and child abuse.

The keywords also include the first and last name of “Miss D”, whose allegations of sexual assault against Sgt McCabe in 2006 were later dismissed by the DPP which found there was no evidence a crime had been committed.

Det Supt Brunton said that the keyword search resulted in a total of 58,865 hits. Some of these were false positives, such as the word "operation", which contains the word "rat".

The tribunal resumes on Monday, when Supt Taylor will begin his evidence. Tribunal barrister Patrick Marrinan SC said Supt Taylor was expected to give evidence until Wednesday, followed by his wife Michelle Taylor.

Former justice minister Alan Shatter TD will appear at the tribunal on Thursday, followed by Mr Callinan, who is also expected to give evidence for several days.

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