The Charleton Tribunal was established because of false claims made by the former head of the Garda Press Office, counsel for Garda HQ and former commissioners Martin Callinan and Noirín O’Sullivan has said.
Supt Dave Taylor, who made a protected disclosure in September 2016 alleging a smear campaign had been conducted against whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe, said he did not accept that his claims were untrue.
During his fourth day in the witness box, Supt Taylor faced resumed questioning from Micheál P O’Higgins SC, for Garda HQ and the former commissioners Callinan and O’Sullivan.
Supt Taylor said in his protected disclosure that he was ordered by Mr Callinan to conduct the smear campaign and that Ms O’Sullivan was aware of it.
Both former Garda commissioners have contested the claim. Sgt McCabe has also made a protected disclosure about the claim, based on what he was told by Supt Taylor.
The two men made the protected disclosures soon after they met in late September 2016 and Supt Taylor told Sgt McCabe that he had conducted a smear campaign against him.
At the end of his questioning, Mr O’Higgins said he wanted to put it to the witness that the reason his evidence about the alleged smear campaign was “vague and lacking in specifics” was that Supt Taylor was afraid of being “directly caught out”.
He said the tribunal had heard accounts of what journalist Mick Clifford and politicians John McGuinness, Mick Wallace and Clare Daly have said they were told in 2016 by Supt Taylor in relation to the alleged smear campaign and that Supt Taylor had "abandoned much of what he had told" them in his evidence to the tribunal.
The tribunal has heard that Supt Taylor, according to these parties, told them in 2016 that the smear campaign involved a large amount of text messages being sent to journalists and others.
Supt Taylor has told the tribunal repeatedly over the past number of days that he did not tell them this and that the campaign did not involve text messages and was conducted in face to face meetings with named journalists or over the phone.
Mr O’Higgins said that no a single person had come forward to support Supt Taylor’s claim that he had conducted an orchestrated smear campaign.
He said that at the time of Supt Taylor’s protected disclosure and the meetings he had with the politicians and Clifford, Supt Taylor had a strong sense of grievance and had become “fixated” on the then commissioner Ms O’Sullivan and her husband.
The tribunal has heard that at the time in 2016, Supt Taylor was suspended on 75 per cent pay while the subject of a criminal investigation.
The investigating team included Ms O’Sullivan’s husband. Supt Taylor has told the tribunal that the investigation rightly concluded that he had leaked information to the media in breach of Garda regulations, after he had left the Garda press office.
Although recommended by the Garda report, charges were never brought as the Director of Public Prosecutions decided that there was not sufficient evidence to support a conviction.
Disciplinary proceedings were later abandoned. The tribunal has also heard that Supt Taylor’s family was under great pressure around the time he made the protected disclosure and he was “not in a good place.”
Supt Taylor’s wife, Michelle, has told the tribunal that she feared for her husband’s life at one stage.
Mr O’Higgins put it to Supt Taylor that he came up with a plan to shield himself from the criminal and disciplinary processes he was facing.
‘Hawked around those lies’
“You decided what better way than painting yourself as a victim and seeking to align yourself with Sgt McCabe. You tried to sell to Sgt McCabe what were a load of lies.”
Counsel said Supt Taylor then “hawked around those lies to politicians and journalists and whoever else would listen to you.”
The purpose of doing this, Mr O’Higgins said, was to undermine Ms O’Sullivan, and in order to do his, Supt Taylor had to also implicate Mr Callinan. “I hear what you’re saying,” Supt Taylor said.
Mr O’Higgins said the tribunal “is in a significant measure about your allegation in your protected disclosure and it is not the truth.”
Supt Taylor said: “I don’t accept that.”
Supt Taylor has named 11 journalists he claims he briefed negatively about Sgt McCabe.
While not all of their positions are known, some have told the tribunal that they were never briefed negatively by Supt Taylor.
Others have said they are restrained from commenting for reasons of journalistic privilege.
No-one has said they were the subject of a negative briefing by Supt Taylor, who has waived any claim to confidentiality that he might have in relation to the alleged briefings.
Solicitor David Phelan, for The Irish Times and crime and security editor Conor Lally, who is one of the journalists named by Supt Taylor, said his client was constrained in what he could say for reasons of journalistic privilege.
However his client's position was that he had never at any time received any negative briefing about Sgt McCabe, from any serving or former member of An Garda Síochána.
Supt Taylor said he had great respect for Mr Lally as a journalist but he had spoken to him while carrying out his instruction from Mr Callinan to negatively brief the media about Sgt McCabe. The former Minister for Justice, Alan Shatter, is expected to begin giving evidence shortly, to be followed by Mr Callinan.