Charleton tribunal: Callinan says key allegation prompted by grudge

Martin Callinan rejects claim he ordered smear campaign against Sgt Maurice McCabe

Former Garda commissioner Martin Callinan who is giving evidence to the Charleton tribunal on Friday.   Photograph: David Sleator/The Irish Times

Former Garda commissioner Martin Callinan who is giving evidence to the Charleton tribunal on Friday. Photograph: David Sleator/The Irish Times

 

The former Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan has said the key allegation being investigated by the Charleton tribunal arose from a superintendent’s “grudge” against his successor, Nóirín O’Sullivan.

Mr Callinan was giving evidence for the first time to the tribunal which is investigating a claim that he ordered a smear campaign against whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe.

The claim was made in 2016 by the former head of the Garda Press Office, Supt Dave Taylor. Supt Taylor was moved from the Press Office in 2014 after Mr Callinan’s resignation as Garda commissioner and his replacement by Ms O’Sullivan.

Supt Taylor was the focus of a criminal inquiry, was suspended from duty and on reduced pay when he made the claim in 2016 in a protected disclosure, the tribunal has heard.

In the protected disclosure Supt Taylor said he was directed by Mr Callinan to conduct a smear campaign against Sgt McCabe and said this was known to the then deputy commissioner, Ms O’Sullivan. Ms O’Sullivan has told the tribunal this claim is incorrect.

Mr Callinan, responding to Patrick Marrinan SC, for the tribunal, said there was no truth to the allegation, which he said was “striking” in being devoid of detail.

He said he had been shocked when he first heard of the claim “because there was no justification for it in any way, shape or form. What has emerged from Supt Taylor is beyond my comprehension.”

Asked for his opinion as to why the claim was made, he said that it was his belief it was made because of a “grudge” Supt Taylor bore against Ms O’Sullivan.

Because of this grudge, Supt Taylor “embarked on this story”, Mr Callinan claimed.

He said the superintendent “said to me when he called to my home.. that he had a huge grievance about being shifted from the Press Office to the traffic department which he saw as a sideways move.”

Mr Callinan said he was told by Supt Taylor the move to the traffic unit would be detrimental to his career. “He was extremely disappointed and angry.”

Mr Callinan said after Supt Taylor’s arrest and suspension, “he told me that he believed commissioner O’Sullivan was the person who was responsible for having him arrested and that he would bring her down.”

Mr Callinan said he believed that “in order for this story to work, he [SUPT TAYLOR]had to involve me in the process. That is my belief. Because there is no other explanation that he would say what he is saying and that he would come into this tribunal and give the type of evidence that he gave.”

Supt Taylor was investigated for the making of unauthorised disclosures to journalists in the period after he left the press office. The Director of Public Prosecutions directed that no charges be brought.

Supt Taylor is now back at work and last year he applied, unsuccessfully, for promotion. He told the tribunal earlier this week that he had in fact made the unauthorised disclosures that were the focus of the criminal inquiry.

Mr Callinan said the media “misconstrued” comments he made in relation to Garda whistleblowers at a Public Accounts Committee meeting in January 2014.

He was referring to his use of the word “disgusting” when he made an appearance before the committee in the midst of the penalty points scandal.

Mr Callinan said there were “miles of articles pillorying me” after the meeting which attached his comment to the Garda whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe.

“I can assure the tribunal that that is very, very far removed from what I was saying at the time.”