Ex Garda press chief had 11,000 contacts with journalists after he left job

Charleton Tribunal hears Garda was allegedly ordered to conduct smear campaign

A protected disclosure former head of the Garda Press Office Dave Taylor has made alleges he was ordered by former commissioners Martin Callinan and/or Noirin O’Sullivan to conduct a smear campaign against Sgnt Maurice McCabe. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw/The Irish Times

A protected disclosure former head of the Garda Press Office Dave Taylor has made alleges he was ordered by former commissioners Martin Callinan and/or Noirin O’Sullivan to conduct a smear campaign against Sgnt Maurice McCabe. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw/The Irish Times

 

The former head of the Garda Press Office Dave Taylor had eleven thousand contacts with journalists over a period of four months after he left the office, an examination of his bill records showed, the Charleton Tribunal has heard.

The phone used for the contacts was taken from Supt Taylor as part of a Garda investigation in December 2014. The investigation led to a file being submitted to the Director of Public Prosecutions recommending a prosecution for the unlawful disclosure of information.

No such charges were brought and Supt Taylor is now back on duty as a serving Garda officer. A protected disclosure he has made alleging that he was ordered by former commissioners Martin Callinan and/or Noirin O’Sullivan to conduct a smear campaign against Sgt Maurice McCabe is one of the key matters being investigated by the tribunal. The former commissioners have rejected Supt Taylor’s claim.

An analysis of the phone seized from Supt Taylor in December 2014 showed that just under 25 per cent of the contacts were with the crime correspondent with the Irish Sun, Eavan Murray.

The superintendent, who had been moved to the traffic section in Dublin Castle, had 2,800 contacts with the crime correspondent between dates in September and December 2014. Other journalists were also in contact.

The tribunal was told by Chief Supt Francis Clerkin that he was appointed in July 2014 to conduct an investigation into the leaking to the media of information about the taking into care of a Roma child in Tallaght. He told Kathleen Leader BL, for the tribunal, that he was appointed by Assistant Commissioner John Twomey.

He said he decided who would be on his team, which included Det Supt James McGowen, the husband of Ms O’Sullivan. He said he never discussed the investigation at any time with Ms O’Sullivan.

Chief Supt Clerkin said that when he discovered that a report on the child care matter had been shared with a number of Garda members, including Supt Taylor and a Supt in Tallaght, he conducted interviews these people. Supt Taylor said during his interview that he had learned about the Tallaght incident from the media.

However further inquiries involving phone records showed contacts between the officer in Tallaght and Supt Taylor, and Supt Taylor and the journalist who had written the exclusive report on the matter, around the time of the incident.

Chief Supt Clerkin said he was “disappointed” when he had learned this. He obtained warrants for the seizing of both officers’ mobile phones, but they were handed over voluntarily when asked for.

It transpired that the phone handed over by Supt Taylor had been issued to him after the event at Tallaght. However other information that was discovered on the phone caused him “alarm and concern”, the witness said. It suggested that Supt Taylor was passing on information to journalists other than in an authorised way.

Deleting emails

The analysis of the phone revealed twelve disclosures of sensitive information to journalists. The investigation also found information that Supt Taylor appeared to be passing on press clippings from the Garda Press Office to journalists and was receiving critical incident reports from the office and was sending these on to his personal email account.

Chief Supt Clerkin said he suspected there was further passing on of these reports to people outside the Garda but could not confirm this as Supt Taylor had a practice of continuously deleting his emails.

The superintendent’s email account was examined on foot of an issued warrant. A laptop had been seized from the superintendent.

In February 2015 it was discovered that Supt Taylor was trying to get information about what turned out to be a fatal shooting incident from the Communications Centre in Harcourt Street. A warrant was secured and Supt Taylor’s phone was seized on foot of the warrant.

The examination of this phone, the second phone to be taken from the superintendent, revealed that there had been calls between Supt Taylor and the officer in Tallaght, and between Supt Taylor and the journalist who wrote the story about the Roma child, at around the time the witness, Chief Supt Clerkin, had initially been in contact with Supt Taylor.

In May 2015 Supt Taylor was arrested and held in Balbriggan Garda Station for eighteen hours. During a series of interviews he replied “no comment” to most questions other than basic ones about his name and rank.

The witness said Supt Taylor was arrested and questioned “to allow him in a structured fashion to tell us exactly what was going on. As it transpired, he didn’t tell us anything.”

Earlier a number of employees and former employees of the Garda Press Office told the tribunal that they had never heard of any smear campaign being ordered against Sgt McCabe during the time Supt Taylor was in charge of the office.

They had not heard any rumours about Sgt McCabe and sex abuse allegations until the false allegations had appeared in the media.

Chief Supt Clarkin is continuing his evidence.