Monday 23 September 2019

Taylor: Callinan told me to brief media that McCabe was motivated by revenge

TRIBUNAL: David Taylor
TRIBUNAL: David Taylor
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

Ex-Garda press officer Supt Dave Taylor has told the Disclosures Tribunal he was instructed by former commissioner Martin Callinan to tell journalists whistleblower Maurice McCabe was motivated by revenge.

Supt Taylor said he received the instruction from Mr Callinan in mid-2013, at a time when the then commissioner was "deeply frustrated" and "agitated" that the issue of penalty points abuse, highlighted by Sgt McCabe, was not dying down.

He also told the tribunal he discussed Mr Callinan’s instructions with then deputy commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan and also informed the Garda’s civilian director of communications Andrew McLindon.

The tribunal is investigating claims by Supt Taylor that he was directed by Mr Callinan, and with the knowledge of Ms O’Sullivan, to draw journalists’ attention to an allegation of sexual assault made against Sgt McCabe and that this was the root cause of his agenda, namely revenge against the force.

While there was an investigation into an allegation against Sgt McCabe, he was cleared after the Director of Public Prosecutions found there was no crime described in the complaint.

Mr Callinan has denied giving any such instruction and Ms O’Sullivan has denied knowing of a campaign against Sgt McCabe.

Mr McLindon has told the tribunal he was never told by Supt Taylor of any instructions to brief negatively against Sgt McCabe and would have been "appalled" if the had been one.

Under questioning from tribunal counsel Diarmaid McGuinness, Supt Taylor said: "Commissioner Callinan directed it and Deputy Commissioner O’Sullivan was aware of it."

He also said that within a week of Mr McLindon joining as director of communications he had briefed him about Mr Callinan’s instruction.

Asked if he was surprised by what Mr Callinan had told him, Supt Taylor said: "The Garda Commissioner told me this. He was the head of the police force. I took it as a matter of fact."

He said he was given specific instructions to take any opportunity he could with the media to drop it into conversations.

Supt Taylor said sometimes opportunities arose to drop it into conversations and sometimes it did not.

He said that at the time he did not believe what he was doing was wrong, but he subsequently did realise this and made a protected disclosure to then Tánaiste and Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald in September 2016.

He said the campaign ended in March 2014 when Mr Callinan resigned.

After Mr Callinan left, there was no discussion about it with his successor, Ms O’Sullivan.

Supt Taylor said he was never in the commissioner’s office again after Mr Callinan resigned and he was transferred out of the Garda Press Office in June of that year.

Supt Taylor said he received the instruction from Mr Callinan in the commissioner’s office. It was given verbally, he said, and nothing was written down.

He could not remember the specific date as he had direct contact with the commissioner "all the time".

"Commissioner Callinan was deeply frustrated that the penalty point issues had not dissipated and that it was growing all the time," he said.

Supt Taylor said the commissioner was worried the controversy was not reflecting well on An Garda Síochána.

He said Callinan told him on a number of occasions: "If only people knew what I know."

The former press officer said he did not question Mr Callinan’s instruction. He said An Garda Síochána was a disciplined force where insubordination was not allowed. If you are given an order you act on it, he said.

Mr McGuinness asked why Supt Taylor had not told others in the press office, such as his deputy, Supt John Ferris, then an inspector, about the commissioner’s instruction.

He replied that conversations he had with the commissioner would only have been discussed at a certain level and would not have been repeated to people in the press office.

Asked if Mr Callinan had repeated the instruction at any stage, Supt Taylor said that on occasions when the penalty points issue was in the media the commissioner would ask him if he was "getting the message out".

He said Mr Callinan would say to him: "Do people not know what I have to put up with."

Supt Taylor said he could not recall who the first media person he negatively briefed was, nor could he remember who the last person was.

"I think it all ended with Commissioner Callinan left," he said.

Supt Taylor said he was present at a meeting of the Dáil Public Accounts Committee in January 2014, after which Mr Callinan had a brief conversation with the committee chairman, Fianna Fáil TD John McGuinness.

He said he didn’t hear the entire conversation but heard Mr Callinan describing Sgt McCabe as "a kiddie fiddler".

Tribunal counsel Diarmaid McGuinness SC pointed out that this detail had not been included in Supt Taylor’s protected disclosure.

Supt Taylor said it had been his intention to include it.

He denied telling Sgt McCabe and the Fianna Fáil TD in separate meetings that he had conducted the smear campaign by texting journalists.

The texts he had referred to were actually exchanges between himself and Mr Callinan and Ms O’Sullivan.

They were background material and updates on media concerning Sgt McCabe.

Earlier, the tribunal heard how Mr Callinan was annoyed when an article appeared the Irish Independent in April 2013 saying he had penalty points wiped out after incurring them while on official duty.

Mr McGuinness told the tribunal that the journalist who wrote the article had called to his house to confirm that it was the commissioner whose points were erased.

Supt Taylor said Mr Callinan was abroad at the time but rang him.

The superintendent said the commissioner was "quite agitated" and felt it was a breach of his privacy.

"He was extremely annoyed and felt it was very unprofessional that a journalist would call to a private house,” said Supt Taylor.

The former press officer said he didn’t speak to the journalist involved but had a meeting with then Independent News & Media managing editor Michael Denieffe, which was also attended by then Assistant Commissioner John Twomey.

The tribunal heard that Supt Taylor had given it the names of nine journalists he claims to have negatively briefed against Sgt McCabe.

However, the tribunal heard five of these journalists had denied ever being briefed in this way.

The other four have not corroborated Supt Taylor’s claims and cited journalistic privilege.

The five who deny being negatively briefed are Paul Williams of the Irish Independent and Newstalk, Paul Reynolds and John Burke of RTÉ, Juno McEnroe of the ‘Irish Examiner’, and Michael O’Toole of the ‘Irish Daily Star’.

Mr O’Toole said he wanted to claim journalistic privilege but that no senior Garda had ever smeared Sgt McCabe to him.

Other journalists who cited privilege are Conor Lally of ‘The Irish Times’, John Mooney of the ‘Sunday Times’, and Cormac O’Keeffe and Daniel McConnell of the ‘Irish Examiner’.

The tribunal heard that two other journalists, not named by Supt Taylor, but contacted by the tribunal, had also exercised journalistic privilege.

They are Debbie McCann of the Irish Mail on Sunday and Eavan Murray of the Irish Sun.

Asked by Mr McGuinness if he would urge journalists to cooperate with the tribunal, Supt Taylor said he had signed a waiver and would urge anybody who could assist to come forward.

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