Garda press chief ‘saw nothing wrong’ with smear campaign at time

Supt Dave Taylor texted Martin Callinan after resignation to say he was inspirational

Disclosures Tribunal: Supt Dave Taylor at Dublin Castle. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Disclosures Tribunal: Supt Dave Taylor at Dublin Castle. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

 

The former head of the Garda press office has told the Disclosures Tribunal he saw nothing wrong at the time about being told to smear Sgt Maurice McCabe. Supt Dave Taylor made a protected disclosure in September 2016 alleging that in 2013 the commissioner at the time, Martin Callinan, told him to try to discredit the sergeant, who had raised concerns about senior gardaí quashing penalty points. Mr Callinan has denied the claim.

The tribunal heard that when Mr Callinan resigned, in March 2014, amid political controversy about the Government’s continuing support for him after Sgt McCabe’s penalty-point concerns and the revelation of taping of calls into and out of Garda stations, Supt Taylor texted him to say the commissioner had always been an inspiration.

The message, sent on March 28th, 2014, was read out while Supt Taylor was being questioned by the tribunal barrister Diarmaid McGuinness SC: “Commissioner, I feel so sorry for the way you have been treated – it’s despicable. You will always be the Boss to me and I am proud to have served under you and worked with you. You were inspirational to me. I wish you and your family all the best for the future and if I can do anything to help please let me know. Dave.”

Mr McGuinness asked whether Supt Taylor had felt Mr Callinan was wrong to order him to conduct a smear campaign. “Not at the time,” Supt Taylor said. “I subsequently did think the campaign was wrong.” Supt Taylor said Mr Callinan had provided a great service to the State as commissioner and had made critical decisions for the good of the country. The commissioner’s role in the visits to Ireland of Queen Elizabeth and President Barack Obama were a testament to him, Supt Taylor said.

Hothouse atmosphere

By the time the superintendent made his protected disclosure, three years later, he said, he had been suspended and was away from the hothouse atmosphere and influence of the Garda Síochána. “I could see in a more clear light, probably, things that I didn’t see.”

Supt Taylor said that during his time in the press office he learned from the media that Mr Callinan was among the drivers who had their penalty points quashed. The commissioner was out of the country, so they discussed it by telephone. “He was very annoyed,” Supt Taylor said. A reporter from the Independent group had called to Mr Callinan’s home, where his wife answered the door. Mr Callinan was “very agitated” by what he regarded as a breach of his privacy; Supt Taylor was told to contact the company to say how annoyed the commissioner was.

Supt Taylor subsequently had a meeting at the Garda’s Dublin-region headquarters, on Harcourt Square, with Michael Denieffe, who was then managing editor of Independent News & Media; Deputy Commissioner John Twomey, who was assistant commissioner for the Dublin region at the time, was also at the meeting. Supt Taylor said he did not recall talking about the matter with the reporter.

Sgt McCabe has told the tribunal, which is chaired by Mr Justice Peter Charleton, that in September 2016 Supt Taylor told him he had conducted a smear campaign involving hundreds, if not thousands, of text messages to journalists and others. Supt Taylor denied saying that; he said the alleged smear campaign involved confidential conversations with journalists. Supt Taylor is continuing his evidence.