Tuesday 17 July 2018

Twelve phones used by Garda chiefs could not be found, tribunal told

Conflicting claims over use of texts in alleged smear campaign

Five phones missing: Former Garda chief Nóirín O’Sullivan
Five phones missing: Former Garda chief Nóirín O’Sullivan
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

Just three out of 15 Garda phones sought by the Disclosures Tribunal as part of its investigation into an alleged smear campaign against whistleblower Maurice McCabe have been surrendered.

Twelve of the phones have either gone missing or cannot be found, the tribunal has been told. It is thought some may have been sent to charities for recycling.

Evidence about the missing phones was given to the tribunal yesterday by Supt Michael Flynn of the Garda Telecommunications Unit.

The tribunal was told none of the three used by former garda press officer Supt Dave Taylor during the relevant period had been handed over.

Just two out of six phones used by former commissioner Martin Callinan were surrendered, while just one out of six used by his successor Nóirín O'Sullivan was provided to the tribunal.

Supt Taylor has alleged he was directed by Mr Callinan and with the knowledge of then deputy commissioner O'Sullivan to brief the media negatively about Sgt McCabe.

Evidence: Supt Michael Flynn was a witness at the tribunal
Evidence: Supt Michael Flynn was a witness at the tribunal

He was told to tell them Sgt McCabe was motivated by malice and revenge to make complaints about garda malpractice which had no substance.

The tribunal is examining records relating to telecommunications between Supt Taylor and the two former commissioners between July 2012 and May 2014, to ascertain whether there are any text messages or other telecommunication interactions available.

Counsel for the tribunal, Diarmaid McGuinness SC, said some people might think it was strange that so many phones could not be found.

However, Supt Flynn said there had not been a policy of handing in phones when they were being replaced because they would have been considered obsolete. He also said some phones may have been given to the Jack and Jill Foundation.

Supt Flynn said that because handsets were missing, the content of some text messages could not be recovered.

There has been contradictory evidence as to whether text messages were used during an alleged smear campaign.

Giving evidence in March, Sgt McCabe said that at a meeting in 2016 with Supt Taylor, the former Garda press officer told him text messages were used to spread a false allegation of child sexual abuse.

He said Supt Taylor told him hundreds of text messages were composed by Mr Callinan for Supt Taylor to forward to senior gardaí, journalists and politicians.

Sgt McCabe said the day after that meeting, Supt Taylor told him there could have been thousands of texts.

He said he was told the texts referred to a false allegation of child sex abuse Sgt McCabe was cleared of following a Garda investigation.

Fianna Fáil TD John McGuinness has also testified that when he met Supt Taylor in January 2017, he understood from their conversation that Supt Taylor was told to circulate text messages to the media against Sgt McCabe.

However, Supt Taylor's counsel, John Ferry BL, told the tribunal his client was not alleging the smear campaign was conducted by text.

Supt Taylor's position is that text messages concerning Sgt McCabe which he sent to Mr Callinan and Ms O'Sullivan were to do with updates about contacts with the media or the publication of reports about the whistleblower.

The tribunal is planning to hear evidence from Supt Taylor on May 14.

Irish Independent

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