Friday 20 September 2019

Only three of 15 Garda phones handed over to Disclosures Tribunal

Nóirín O’Sullivan. Photo: Stephen Collins/Collins Photos
Nóirín O’Sullivan. Photo: Stephen Collins/Collins Photos
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

Just three out of 15 Garda phones sought by the Disclosures Tribunal as part of its investigation into an alleged smear campaign against whistleblower Maurice McCabe have been surrendered.

Some twelve of the phones have either gone missing or cannot be located, the tribunal has heard.

It is thought some may have been sent to charities for recycling.

Evidence about the missing phones was given to the tribunal today by Supt Michael Flynn of the Garda telecommunications unit.

The tribunal heard none of the three phones used by former Garda press officer Supt Dave Taylor during the relevant period were handed over.

Just two out of six phones used by former commissioner Martin Callinan were surrendered, while just one out of six used by his successor Nóirín O'Sullivan were provided to the tribunal.

Supt Taylor has alleged he was directed by former commissioner Callinan and with the knowledge of then deputy commissioner O’Sullivan to brief the media negatively about Sgt McCabe, to tell them he was motivated by malice and revenge to make complaints about garda malpractice which had no substance.

It is examining records relating to telecommunications interactions between Supt Taylor and the two former commissioners between July 2012 and May 2014, to ascertain whether there are any records of text messages or other telecommunication interactions available.

Counsel for the tribunal, Diarmaid McGuinness SC, said some people might think it was strange that so many phones could not be found.

However, Supt Flynn said there was not a policy of handing in phones when they were being replaced as they would have been considered obsolete.

He also said some phones may have been given to the Jack and Jill Foundation.

There has been contradictory evidence as to whether text messages were used during an alleged smear campaign.

Giving evidence in March, Sgt McCabe said that at a meeting in 2016 with Supt Taylor, the former Garda press officer told him text messages were used to spread a false allegation of child sexual abuse.

He said Supt Taylor told him hundreds of text messages were composed by Mr Callinan for Supt Taylor to forward to senior gardaí, journalists and politicians.

Sgt McCabe said the day after that meeting, Supt Taylor told him there could have been thousands of texts.

He said he was told the texts referred to a false allegation of child sex abuse that Sgt McCabe was cleared of following a Garda investigation.

Fianna Fáil TD John McGuinness has also testified that when he met Supt Taylor in January 2017, he understood from their conversation that Supt Taylor was told to circulate text messages to the media against Sgt McCabe.

However, Supt Taylor’s counsel, John Ferry BL, told the tribunal today that his client was not alleging the smear campaign was conducted by text.

Supt Flynn said that because handsets were missing, the content of some text messages could not be recovered.

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