Saturday 26 May 2018

Taylor denies trying to bring down commissioner over vendetta fears

Garda Superintendent and former press officer David Taylor. Photo: Collins
Garda Superintendent and former press officer David Taylor. Photo: Collins
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

Former Garda press officer Dave Taylor believed it was "a probability" then commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan had "a vendetta" against him when he was suspended and placed under investigation over unauthorised leaks to journalists.

But he has denied making a protected disclosure, implicating Ms O'Sullivan in an alleged smear campaign against Garda whistleblower Maurice McCabe, in an effort to undermine the commissioner.

Under questioning at the Disclosures Tribunal, Supt Taylor also flatly denied embarking on a media and political campaign after the September 2016 disclosure with the objective of bringing down Ms O'Sullivan.

The tribunal has heard claims that within days of making the disclosure, Supt Taylor told TDs Mick Wallace and Clare Daly that Ms O'Sullivan was a liar and that she had appointed her husband, Det Supt Jim McGowan, to investigate him.

It also heard the TDs raised concerns about the alleged smear campaign on the floor of the Dáil, with Ms Daly calling for Ms O'Sullivan's resignation.

Mr Wallace has provided his notes of the meeting to the tribunal.

Under robust questioning from Garda counsel Michéal P O'Higgins SC, Supt Taylor denied saying to the TDs they could tell when Ms O'Sullivan was lying by the way she sat and moved in her seat. However, he accepted he raised Det Supt McGowan's role in the investigation with them.

"I thought it was very unusual that a Garda commissioner would appoint her own husband to investigate another officer," he said.

The tribunal has previously heard evidence from Chief Supt Frank Clerkin, who led the probe, that he personally chose Det Supt McGowan and that Ms O'Sullivan had no involvement in this. No prosecution resulted from the inquiry and Supt Taylor was reinstated in February of last year.

Mr O'Higgins put it to Supt Taylor that he believed he was being targeted by Ms O'Sullivan.

"Were you anxious to bring her down?" he asked.

"I was a suspended Garda superintendent. I would not have any ability to do such a thing," replied Supt Taylor.

At another stage during the bruising cross-examination, Mr O'Higgins said: "The walls were closing in around you and I suggest you were fixated on Nóirín O'Sullivan and her husband's role in this investigation and you were lashing out."

Supt Taylor responded: "I don't accept that."

The superintendent denied co-ordinating his protected disclosure with one made by Sgt McCabe or that he told the TDs Garda management "were out to shaft him" in a manner "not dissimilar" to what had been done with Sgt McCabe.

"I would never for a second put myself in the same position as Sgt McCabe," he said.

The tribunal has heard claims Supt Taylor was "bitter" about being transferred by Ms O'Sullivan to the Garda traffic bureau, based at Dublin Castle, in June 2014. Mr O'Higgins asked if, after the transfer, he sent someone a text saying: "I'm currently in the dungeon in Dublin Castle, awaiting parole."

Supt Taylor said he couldn't recall the text.

Mr O'Higgins also asked if he told a colleague he was "gutted" when Ms O'Sullivan succeeded Martin Callinan earlier that year. Supt Taylor said he couldn't say that he did, but added: "She wouldn't have been my number one choice to be Garda commissioner."

There was also a difficult exchange when tribunal chairman Mr Justice Peter Charleton asked Supt Taylor about a claim he made during a High Court action that his phone had been tampered with during the investigation.

"You're not answering any of my questions, Superintendent. Literally none of them. You are avoiding every single one," Mr Justice Charleton said at one point.

Supt Taylor protested he had been trying to give the rationale for his concerns and Mr Justice Charleton said he appreciated that before questioning moved on to another topic.

Irish Independent

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Also in this section