Monday 21 October 2019

Taylor denies seeking media and political support while under investigation - Disclosures Tribunal

Supt Dave Taylor
Supt Dave Taylor
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

Former Garda press officer Supt Dave Taylor has denied seeking media and political support for a view that he was being unfairly targeted by a Garda investigation.

The Disclosures Tribunal has heard Supt Taylor spoke with journalist Michael Clifford and had a meeting with TDs Mick Wallace and Clare Daly after making a protected disclosure alleging he was instructed to conduct a smear campaign against whistleblower Maurice McCabe.

He claimed he was ordered to do so by former Garda commissioner Martin Callinan and with the knowledge of then deputy commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan.

At the time of the protected disclosure, in September 2016, Supt Taylor was suspended and under investigation for the alleged unauthorised disclosure of information to journalists.

Giving evidence today, Supt Taylor denied he had perceived himself as being unfairly targeted by the Garda investigation.

Tribunal counsel Diarmaid McGuinness said one interpretation of Supt Taylor’s contact with the journalist and the TDs was that he was seeking to elicit media and political support for a narrative that he was being unfairly targeted.

"I wouldn’t support that," responded Supt Taylor.

Asked if he made the disclosure because the investigation was in the balance, Supt Taylor said: "Absolutely not."

He added: "I made it because I wanted to do the right thing."

The DPP ultimately decided the following February not to bring charges and Supt Taylor was reinstated.

The tribunal has previously heard that after meeting the TDs, Ms Daly aired issued in his protected disclosure in the Dáil and called for Commissioner O'Sullivan's resignation.

Supt Taylor said the TDs had come to his home. He met them at their request and had not sought them out.

Asked by Mr McGuinness if he told the TDs he was unfairly targeted, Supt Taylor said there had been a robust investigation.

Supt Taylor said he did not deny the right of any commissioner to investigate a member of the force.

The tribunal has also previously heard evidence from Sgt McCabe and Fianna Fáil TD John McGuinness, who both said Supt Taylor told them the smear campaign involved the sending of text messages to journalists and politicians.

Supt Taylor said this was not the case and that text messages were not used.

"I did this over the phone and by face to face meetings at press conferences," he said.

Diarmaid McGuinness SC put it to Supt Taylor that he had been given an advance extract of a book written by Mr Clifford about Sgt McCabe.

This included a passage outlining how "an incredulous McCabe" was informed by Supt Taylor that he had sent texts to media and Garda personnel casting Sgt McCabe in a bad light.

Supt Taylor was supplied with the extract in May 2017 and asked by the journalists for his observations, particularly in relation to accuracy.

Mr McGuinness questioned why Supt Taylor hadn’t corrected Mr Clifford on the texts issue.

Supt Taylor said he didn’t proof read the extract and only scanned it very quickly.

The barrister asked Supt Taylor about a list of nine journalists he had provided to the tribunal.

The superintendent claims to have negatively briefed these journalists about Sgt McCabe, but four have disputed this and the other five have not corroborated his claim, citing journalistic privilege.

Supt Taylor claims he drew journalists attention to the fact Sgt McCabe had been the subject of a Garda investigation for the alleged sexual assault of a child many years ago. Sgt McCabe was cleared of the allegation in 2007.

Mr McGuinness repeatedly asked Supt Taylor why he had left out the names of two other journalists, Debbie McCann from the Irish Mail on Sunday and Eavan Murray from the Irish Sun, when he supplied the list.

He only disclosed their names when they were put to him during his second interview with investigators for the tribunal.

Both journalists had gone to the home of the now adult complainant in 2014 seeking to interview her and Supt Taylor was aware of this. Ultimately neither journalist published articles.

Supt Taylor said it wasn’t a case of forgetting to disclose their names.

"It was a case of putting information before the tribunal as it became available to me," he said.

The tribunal has previously heard phone records showed extensive contact between Supt Taylor and both journalists.

Mr McGuinness said that on one view it would seem difficult for him to have forgotten their names given the extent of his contact with them.

Supt Taylor insisted it was never their intention not to include them on the list.

Mr McGuinness said one interpretation was that Supt Taylor was attempting to conceal their involvement and his involvement in assisting them. Supt Taylor denied this and said: "I revealed it and put it in my statement when asked."

Tribunal chairman Mr Justice Peter Charleton observed that phone records from a certain period showed Supt Taylor was having up to 25 contacts a day with one of the journalists, Ms Murray.

In response Supt Taylor repeated his assertion he had not forgotten about the journalists and that he gave the information to the tribunal at the first available opportunity.

"We put the information to you," the judge responded.

"And I confirmed it," Supt Taylor said.

Both Ms McCann and Ms Murray have claimed privilege in relation to their contact with Supt Taylor.

Mr McGuinness suggested to Supt Taylor that he had attempted to point some journalists towards Cavan and the home of the sexual assault complainant.

Supt Taylor said he never directed journalists to go there. However, he said he was aware they were going there and did not discourage them.

He also said he had not known “the intimate details” of the allegation against Sgt McCabe.

Earlier, Oisín Quinn SC for Juno McEnroe, one of the nine journalists included on Supt Taylor’s initial list, said he wished to clarify that his client was not denying be was briefed negatively about Sgt McCabe.

On Monday it was put to Supt Taylor by Mr McGuinness that Mr McEnroe was one of five journalists who denied receiving negative briefings.

But Mr Quinn said the position was that his client was claiming privilege and was not denying he was negatively briefed.

Mr McGuinness pointed out that in his initial response to the tribunal, Mr McEnroe said he did not have any information of relevance to the terms of reference.

Mr McEnroe is one of a number of journalists scheduled to give evidence.

Mr Justice Charleton said the process he was engaged in was "deadly serious", "supposed to be in the national interest" and he expected people to cooperate and be absolutely straight.

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