Friday 18 October 2019

Taylor told reporter his phones linked O'Sullivan to McCabe smear claims

Michael McDowell and Maurice McCabe at the Disclosures Tribunal in Dublin Castle, Dublin. Photos: Gareth Chaney/Collins
Michael McDowell and Maurice McCabe at the Disclosures Tribunal in Dublin Castle, Dublin. Photos: Gareth Chaney/Collins
Michael Clifford. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

A former Garda press officer claimed his phones were seized because then-commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan wanted to get her hands on the "smoking gun" linking her to a smear campaign against whistleblower Maurice McCabe, the Disclosures Tribunal has heard.

Journalist Michael Clifford said Supt Dave Taylor made the allegation to him in 2016, while the superintendent was suspended from duty.

The Irish Examiner correspondent, who has written a book on Sgt McCabe, said he was given the impression by Supt Taylor that there were texts on the phones which would implicate Ms O'Sullivan.

Supt Taylor surrendered two phones, and was arrested and questioned the previous year as part of a Garda probe into the unauthorised disclosure of information to journalists.

According to Mr Clifford, Supt Taylor alleged Ms O'Sullivan was the cause of his being arrested and suspended.

He said Supt Taylor's whole thesis was that Ms O'Sullivan "wanted to get her hands on his phone because that was what you might call a smoking gun".

Supt Taylor was moved from the Garda press office to the traffic bureau by Ms O'Sullivan shortly after she became commissioner in 2014, and it was clear to Mr Clifford that he had "an animus" towards her and was aggrieved the move did not involve a promotion.

The tribunal is investigating claims made by Supt Taylor that he was ordered in 2013 by then commissioner Martin Callinan to negatively brief journalists that Sgt McCabe had been investigated over a child sexual assault allegation.

While it was true Sgt McCabe was investigated, the DPP found in 2007 that even if the disputed claim was correct, it did not constitute a crime.

Supt Taylor alleged the smear campaign was conducted with the knowledge of Ms O'Sullivan, the-then deputy commissioner.

Both Mr Callinan and Ms O'Sullivan deny the allegations.

Supt Taylor made the claims in a protected disclosure in September 2016, at a time he was suspended and on reduced pay. He was reinstated the following year and did not face charges.

Mr Clifford said Supt Taylor felt his arrest was "humiliating".

The journalist said: "If he hadn't encountered his problems, I doubt very much any of us would be here."

Mr Clifford said he met Supt Taylor twice in 2016. The first meeting was in late August or early September. The journalist said Supt Taylor told him Mr Callinan would send him derogatory texts about Sgt McCabe. Mr Clifford said he believed these were passed on to other senior officers and to the media.

"I cannot tell you 100pc that he said he texted the media or spoke to them verbally. What I am absolutely sure of is the centrality of these text messages," said Mr Clifford. The tribunal has previously heard evidence contradicting this from Supt Taylor. He claims text messages were not circulated to journalists.

His evidence is that the only role the texts played was that he used them to inform Mr Callinan and Ms O'Sullivan when an item about Sgt McCabe appeared in the media.

However, Mr Clifford said that during a second meeting, in October 2016, Supt Taylor confirmed to him texts were part of the campaign.

The tribunal has previously heard the seized phones were not the ones used by Supt Taylor at the time of the alleged smear campaign. Out of 15 phones used by Ms O'Sullivan, Mr Callinan and Supt Taylor in the period under examination, 12 are missing and could not be provided to the tribunal.

Meanwhile, RTÉ journalist John Burke told the tribunal he was "mystified" over why Supt Taylor named him as one of 11 reporters the superintendent claims to have negatively briefed. "It didn't happen," said Mr Burke.

Irish Independent

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