Tuesday 12 December 2017

Garda chief 'personally told of smear campaign'

Senior garda to give minister second dossier

Whistleblower alleged that Commissioner O’Sullivan was made aware of the campaign through text messages Picture: Collins Dublin
Whistleblower alleged that Commissioner O’Sullivan was made aware of the campaign through text messages Picture: Collins Dublin

Niall O'Connor and Philip Ryan

The whistleblower at the centre of the latest Garda controversy has alleged Garda Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan was personally told of the smear campaign against Sergeant Maurice McCabe.

It's understood the highly damaging claim is contained in a protected disclosure provided to Tánaiste and Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald last week.

Superintendent David Taylor, the officer behind the explosive allegations, last night met Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin and his Chef de Cabinet Deirdre Gilliane in Leinster House.

During the 90-minute meeting, Supt Taylor claimed senior Garda management orchestrated a campaign to discredit the character of Sgt McCabe.

It's understood he has also claimed in his disclosure that Ms O'Sullivan was made aware of the campaign through text messages and other forms of communication.

The allegations contradict a statement by Commr O'Sullivan this week, during which she said she was "not privy to nor approved of" any action targeting an officer in the force.

She said she would "condemn any such action" and reiterated her stance that any employee's concerns "will be taken seriously and the matters examined". A spokesman for the Commissioner last night reaffirmed her position.

The decision by the Fianna Fáil leader to meet Supt Taylor is significant given the party's influence on the current administration.

Mr Martin was last night considering Supt Taylor's allegations and was expected to raise the issue directly with Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Ms Fitzgerald.

Sources in both Justice and Garda circles last night said Supt Taylor's claims have caused deep unrest.

The allegations will now be subject to a judge-led inquiry, the exact details of which will be announced in the coming days.

Supt Taylor is understood to have told Mr Martin and his senior adviser that his main motivation in making a protected disclosure is ensuring that the force is a safe place to work.

Supt Taylor is currently on suspension from the force, on a severely reduced salary, for the alleged leaking of information to the press.

He was arrested and questioned for 20 hours straight and held in a cell in Balbriggan Garda Station.

He has been under investigation for over 16 months by a special unit that was headed up by Commr O'Sullivan's husband, Chief Supt Jim McGowan.

Mr McGowan was one of several high-ranking officers promoted just weeks before responsibility for such appointments switches to the new independent Policing Authority.

The allegations that Supt Taylor leaked information to the press have been sent to the Director for Public Prosecutions (DPP) for consideration.

As head of the Garda press office, Supt Taylor was one of the few officers at all times authorised to speak to the media.

Supt Taylor was closely aligned to Ms O'Sullivan's predecessor Martin Callinan prior to his retirement from the force.

But he has now met Sgt McCabe personally, following which he agreed to submit the protected disclosure.

In his disclosure, Supt Taylor claimed he was authorised by his superiors to send hundreds of text messages to members of media and gardaí alleging gross misconduct by the whistleblower.

He believes politicians were also contacted by senior Garda management and presented with the same claims.

The allegations, sources say, were aimed at compromising the whistleblower who had made serious claims about practices and procedures within the force. Prior to Supt Taylor's promotion to the head of the press office, he served as a senior officer in charge of the security of both President Michael D Higgins and his predecessor Mary McAleese.

His suspension from the force has had a deeply negative impact on his health, as well as the well-being of his family, sources say.

Meanwhile, another senior officer is expected to submit a dossier to the Justice Minister, in which he alleges bullying and dysfunctionality at senior level in the force.

The officer, who is of very senior rank, has contacted a legal firm ahead of his submission of the file using what is known as Section 42 of the Garda Síochána Act.

This allows the file to be sent directly for the minister's attention.

Irish Independent

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