Former Garda press chief denies trying to ‘do down’ O’Sullivan

Supt David Taylor tells Charleton tribunal he never branded ex-commissioner ‘a liar’

Former Garda Press Officer David Taylor arrives at the Charleton tribunal in Dublin Castle on Wednesday. Photograph: Stephen Collins/Collins Photos

Former Garda Press Officer David Taylor arrives at the Charleton tribunal in Dublin Castle on Wednesday. Photograph: Stephen Collins/Collins Photos

 

A former head of the Garda Press Office has rejected a suggestion that he was anxious to “do down” the then Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan because he was “bitter”.

Supt Dave Taylor, in his third day of evidence to the Charleton Tribunal, also rejected a suggestion from counsel for Ms O’Sullivan that he “vented” against Ms O’Sullivan during a meeting in his home with deputies Mick Wallace and Clare Daly.

The tribunal is investigating a claim by Supt Taylor that he conducted a smear campaign against garda whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe, having been ordered to do so by the then Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan. He also said this was known to the then deputy commissioner, Ms O’Sullivan. They have both denied the claim.

Asked by Micheal P O’Higgins SC, for Ms O’Sullivan, Mr Callinan, and Garda HQ, if he denied speaking pejoratively about Ms O’Sullivan at the October 2016 meeting with the two deputies, Supt Taylor said: “I don’t recall saying those things.”

“As I have said, she would not have been my number one choice” for Garda Commissioner. Asked about a note taken by Mr Wallace recording Supt Taylor saying Ms O’Sullivan moves in her seat when she’s lying, the witness said: “I didn’t say she was a liar.”

The tribunal has heard that after Mr Callinan retired, and was replaced by Ms O’Sullivan, Supt Taylor was moved from the Garda Press Office to the Traffic Division in Dublin Castle. Supt Taylor said he considered it a “sideways move”.

Supt Taylor told Mr O’Higgins he could not recall sending a text to a colleague stating, “I’m currently in the dungeon at Dublin Castle awaiting parole.”

The tribunal has heard that Supt Taylor was later suspended as a criminal inquiry was conducted into the leaking of information to the media, in the period after he had left the press office. Ms O’Sullivan’s husband, then Det Supt Jim McGowan, was part of the investigating team, which Supt Taylor said was “unusual”.

During his period of suspension, he was on 75 per cent pay and in his meeting with Mr Wallace and Ms Daly, Supt Taylor explained that he was under financial pressure as a result.

The Garda investigation led to a recommendation that criminal charges be brought against Supt Taylor but the Director of Public Prosecutions did not agree. No charges were brought. Disciplinary inquiries were also dropped.

Mr O’Higgins said the witness was “fixated on Noirin O’Sullivan and her husband’s role in the investigation” into the media leaks. Supt Taylor said he did not accept that.

“You were keen to present yourself as a victim and draw parallels with Maurice McCabe?” Mr O’Higgins said. Supt Taylor said he did not accept that.

Mr O’Higgins said the witness had been “bitter” and intent on undermining Ms O’Sullivan and this was why he had been in contact with politicians. Supt Taylor said he did not accept this.

Supt Taylor’s wife, Michelle, told Kathleen Leader, for the tribunal, that at the time in September 2016 that Sgt McCabe sought a meeting with her husband, he was “not in a good place” because of the strain the family was under. “I actually thought Dave was going to die.”

Ms Taylor was in attendance at separate meetings between her husband and Sgt McCabe, with journalist Mick Clifford, with John McGuinness of Fianna Fáil, and with Mr Wallace and Ms Daly. While they have told the tribunal her husband said he sent text messages to journalists as part of the smear campaign, Ms Taylor said that was not said and that no texts were used as part of the smear campaign. “Dave wasn’t really a great texter,” she said.