Dave Taylor appointment among Callinan’s ‘worst mistakes’

Charleton tribunal: Ex-Garda chief says he thought press officer would be good choice

Charleton tribunal: the former Garda commissioner Martin Callinan. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Charleton tribunal: the former Garda commissioner Martin Callinan. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

 

Choosing Supt Dave Taylor to head the Garda press office was one of the worst mistakes of his life, the former commissioner Martin Callinan has said.

Supt Taylor’s claim that in 2013 Mr Callinan ordered him to conduct a smear campaign against the Garda whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe – with the knowledge of the deputy commissioner at the time, Nóirín O’Sullivan – is one of the main issues being investigated by the Disclosures Tribunal, under the chairmanship of Mr Justice Peter Charleton. Mr Callinan and Ms O’Sullivan have both rejected the claim.

As the former commissioner was finishing his evidence today, after three days in the witness box, Mr Justice Charleton suggested that the decision to appoint Supt Taylor must be “one of the worst mistakes of your life”. “I absolutely agree with you,” Mr Callinan responded. He said he had looked at Supt Taylor’s experience and “thought he would be a good choice. The rest, as they say, is history”.

Over four days of evidence last week Supt Taylor insisted he had been ordered to smear Sgt McCabe, but he was unable to give the tribunal any details about briefings he said he gave to 11 named journalists. None have come forward to confirm that Supt Taylor briefed them against the Garda whistleblower. Some of the journalists he named have said he did not brief them.

During his evidence Mr Callinan described as crazy an allegation made against him by the Fianna Fáil TD John McGuinness. Mr McGuinness has told the tribunal that Mr Callinan told him the sergeant had sexually abused his own family. Mr Callinan said he never made any such comment during a meeting in a car park at Newlands Cross, on the outskirts of Dublin, in January 2014. Mr Callinan questioned the accuracy of a note of the conversation made by Mr McGuinness, who has said he wrote it soon after leaving the meeting.

Mr Callinan said he found it disconcerting that Mr McGuinness met Sgt McCabe and Supt Taylor before making his statement to the tribunal. But, he said, he was not saying Sgt McCabe had asked the TD to lie to it.

The former commissioner asked why Mr McGuinness did not report the alleged conversation at the time to the then taoiseach or government, or to the O’Higgins commission, which was established to investigate matters linked to Sgt McCabe and his whistleblowing.

“He very definitely had a duty to bring this to the attention of the government,” Mr Callinan told Michael McDowell SC, for Sgt McCabe. “This is the commissioner of An Garda Síochána making that type of very serious complaint, and he decides to sit on his hands,” he said. “It is beyond my comprehension.”

Charleton tribunal: Sgt Maurice McCabe. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins
Charleton tribunal: Sgt Maurice McCabe. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

‘Vindictiveness’

He said the alleged comment would have been relevant to the work of the O’Higgins commission, as it would have indicated “vindictiveness” against Sgt McCabe.

Mr McDowell said that four people who could not possibly have colluded together had given evidence of separate conversations in which they said Mr Callinan had “very seriously attacked” the character of Sgt McCabe. “How could that happen?” Mr McDowell asked.

Mr Callinan said the conversations did not involve the comments it was being alleged he made. Three of the disputed conversations took place in Leinster House on January 23rd, 2014, the day before the meeting in the Newlands Cross car park.

A further disputed conversation, with the RTÉ journalist Philip Boucher-Hayes, took place in December 2013. The others were with the Comptroller and Auditor General, Seamus McCarthy, and the Fine Gael TD John Deasy.

Asked by Darren Lehane, for Mr McGuinness, what he thought might be the deputy’s motive for giving false evidence to the tribunal, Mr Callinan replied: “I can’t answer that, chairman. That’s for him and his maker. I am happy that I am going to mine knowing that I’m telling the truth here.”

Mr Lehane said the former commissioner had “spun a web of lies” about his interactions with Mr McGuinness. Mr Callinan said this was “absolutely untrue”.

The tribunal has adjourned until Tuesday, when Ms O’Sullivan is to give evidence.