Former Garda press officer was ‘ordered’ to brief against McCabe

Supt Dave Taylor is giving evidence for the first time to the Disclosures Tribunal

The former head of the Garda Press Office  David Taylor (right), pictured in 2013 with then Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan and minister for justice at the time Alan Shatter. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

The former head of the Garda Press Office David Taylor (right), pictured in 2013 with then Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan and minister for justice at the time Alan Shatter. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

 

The former head of the Garda Press Office has told the Disclosures Tribunal that he was ordered by the then Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan in 2013 to take every opportunity to tell journalists that Garda whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe was motivated by “revenge”.

Giving evidence to the tribunal for the first time, Supt Dave Taylor said he was told that when talking to journalists he was to “drop into the conversation” that Sgt McCabe had been the subject of a sex abuse allegation some years earlier, and “revenge” against the force was his “driving force”.

At the time Mr Callinan was getting “deeply frustrated” that the penalty points issue that had been raised by Sgt McCabe was “not abating, it was growing and growing all the time, Supt Taylor said. It was reflecting badly on An Garda Síochána,” and badly on Mr Callinan.

Supt Taylor said he was told by Mr Callinan that any time the penalty points issue was mentioned to journalists, he was to say “well there is a backstory here”.

The tribunal has heard that Sgt McCabe was the subject of an historical child sex abuse allegation in 2006 which was investigated but led to no charges being brought. The complainant was the daughter of a Garda colleague and the Director of Public Prosecutions, having reviewed the file, said that even if the disputed claim was correct, it would not constitute a criminal offence.

Supt Taylor said he was instructed by Mr Callinan to tell journalists that Sgt McCabe’s motivation wasn’t to bring some important matter to public attention, but rather the “root cause” of his whistleblowing was “wreaking revenge” on An Garda Síochána.

He said he was told about the sex abuse allegation by Mr Callinan in the then commissioner’s office in the middle of 2013, and was given his instruction to negatively brief against Sgt McCabe at the same time.

He said that the then deputy commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan was aware of the instruction he had been given but was not in the office at the time. He said the “campaign” ended when Mr Callinan resigned in March 2014.

He said he was never told by Ms O’Sullivan to end the campaign.

He could not recall the name of the first journalist with whom he first discussed Sgt McCabe’s motivation.

Supt Taylor made a protected disclosure in late September 2016 about what he said was a campaign he was instructed to conduct against Sgt McCabe.

No journalists were named in the disclosure as having been briefed negatively in relation to Sgt McCabe.

Claim denied

The tribunal was established by the Oireachtas to investigate the claim and other matters. Mr Callinan and Ms O’Sullivan have both denied the claim.

Supt Taylor said he told the director of communications at Garda HQ Andrew McLindon about the campaign. Mr McLindon has said in evidence that he was never told about any such campaign.

At the time he made his protected disclosure, Supt Taylor was suspended and the focus of a criminal inquiry for leaking information to journalists after he had left the Garda Press Office. He was also the focus of a disciplinary investigation.

Diarmaid McGuinness SC, for the tribunal, asked Supt Taylor whether he made his disclosure in order to receive “protection”. Supt Taylor said he wanted to provide information of concern to the relevant authorities.

Asked why he needed to make a protected disclosure to do this, he said he did so after having taken legal advice from his solicitor, Carthage Conlon, who helped him draft his disclosure. Supt Taylor said he knew at the time that Sgt McCabe had made a protected disclosure.

Supt Taylor said that when he was told by Mr Callinan that Sgt McCabe was motivated by a desire for revenge, he took it as fact. He was told that the sex assault allegation was the “epicentre and core of why he [McCabe] was now involved in this campaign”.

Asked if he believed the instructions he had received were improper, Supt Taylor said it had to be understood that An Garda Síochána is a “disciplined force”. If the Garda Commissioner gave you a direct order, you acted on it.

He told Mr McGuinness that at the time he decided in 2016 to make the disclosure, he had been away from the “hothouse” atmosphere of the force, because of his suspension. The tribunal heard that after he made his protected disclosure, Supt Taylor held meetings with politicians Clare Daly and Mick Wallace, and with journalist Mick Clifford of the Irish Examiner.

The evidence is continuing.