Tuesday 26 March 2019

Soon the judge must rule on who is giving a true account

Former Garda press officer Dave Taylor Picture: Collins Dublin.
Former Garda press officer Dave Taylor Picture: Collins Dublin.

John Downing

Judge Peter Charleton is a plain-speaking man, who likes to ask witnesses questions, and often explains why he is asking them.

On Monday he asked Superintendent Dave Taylor if he could please offer any details of when and how he used his job as Garda press officer to brief journalists against whistleblower Sergeant Maurice McCabe.

The judge explained many journalists insisted he did no such thing. So, it would help if Supt Taylor had any detail of when and how he did this briefing, and what if any reaction he got from the journalists, at what the judge termed this "explosive news".

Supt Taylor was very short on specifics and said he got almost no reaction from journalists.

This Disclosures Tribunal at Dublin Castle, examining Sgt McCabe's extraordinary case, and whether he was the victim of a defamation campaign by Garda leadership, is entering its final weeks. Mr Justice Peter Charleton noted on Thursday that proceedings started in February of last year and he is determined to finish next month.

There was a notable increase in pace this week as three key witnesses gave testimony. Supt Taylor spent 16 hours in the witness box, across three tough days, fielding questions about why he first off allegedly took instructions from his boss commissioner Martin Callinan to tell the press Sgt McCabe was "motivated" by revenge against the force.

Then he was questioned as to why he did a complete "about-face"; decided what he did was wrong, and joined Sgt McCabe in making a "protected disclosure" to the authorities.

Michelle Taylor appeared briefly to tell how much her husband had suffered after he was "moved sideways" to the traffic section, after Mr Callinan was succeeded by Nóirín O'Sullivan. Ms Taylor largely bore out her husband's testimony.

On Thursday we met the third unhappy person who lost a good job amid all of this controversy.

Alan Shatter had been justice minister from 2011 until May 2014. He recalled his dismay at being forced to resign and we were reminded that his legal challenge to the surrounding circumstances still must be decided by the Supreme Court.

Mr Shatter said Sgt McCabe's allegations, about malfeasance in the penalty points system and problems in the Cavan-Monaghan garda district, soaked up a lot of his time. He acknowledged that much of what Sgt McCabe said was right - but there were gaps and inaccuracies. Overall, there were times when he felt that dealing with Sgt McCabe "was like sinking in quicksand". His testimony was also at variance with that of Supt Taylor.

Yesterday it was time for former commissioner Martin Callinan to enter. His voice has not been heard since his abrupt retirement in late March 2014. He has denied blackening Sgt McCabe's character and utterly rejected Supt Taylor's evidence. All of this will be tested over several days next week.

But the days are now rolling by. Soon Judge Charleton must rule on which of these hugely conflicting accounts is the true one.

Irish Independent

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