Whistleblower’s texts showed ‘contempt’ for O’Sullivan
Tribunal hears former press officer had 11,000 contacts with journalists in four months
The tribunal was told of “derogatory remarks” about former Garda commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan contained in the text messages of Supt David Taylor. File photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times
Text messages from the phone of the former head of the Garda Press Office, Supt David Taylor, indicate he felt “contempt” for the former commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan, the Charleton tribunal has heard.
The tribunal was told by Chief Supt Francis Clerkin that he based this view on “derogatory remarks” about Ms O’Sullivan contained in the text messages, the nature of which was not disclosed.
Two mobile phones were taken from Supt Taylor as part of a Garda investigation headed by Chief Supt Clerkin into the unauthorised disclosure of sensitive Garda information to journalists.
The investigation led to a file being submitted to the Director of Public Prosecutions recommending a prosecution. No charges were brought and Supt Taylor is now back on duty as a serving Garda officer. He is expected to give evidence to the tribunal next week.
A protected disclosure he has made alleging that he was ordered by former Garda commissioners O’Sullivan and/or Martin Callinan 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.
The chairman of the tribunal, Mr Justice Peter Charleton, observed that he was being invited to consider whether the protected disclosure had been made by Supt Taylor because it was considered “politic” for him to do so when he was the subject of a criminal inquiry and a Garda disciplinary review.
The disciplinary review was dropped earlier this year but the reasons for this have not been disclosed.
An analysis of a phone taken from Supt Taylor in December 2014 showed more that 11,000 contacts with journalists in the period from September of that year.
Supt Taylor had been moved from the Garda Press Office by then Commissioner O’Sullivan in June.
The analysis of the phone contacts showed that just under 25 per cent of the contacts were with the crime correspondent with the Irish Sun, Eavan Murray. Other journalists were also in contact with Supt Taylor.
The tribunal was told by Chief Supt 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, 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 McGowan, the husband of Ms O’Sullivan. He said he never discussed the investigation at any time with Ms O’Sullivan. Mr Twomey never interfered other than appointing him, Chief Supt Clerkin said.
The tribunal heard that Supt Taylor’s wife, Michelle Taylor, has told the tribunal in a statement that Ms O’Sullivan was very anxious “to get a charge against her husband” and that he “found it quite upsetting that she had appointed her husband to lead the investigation”.
It also heard that Sgt McCabe, in a protected disclosure, had said he was told by Supt Taylor that he was targeted by the gardaí as “he knew too much”.
In May 2015, Supt Taylor was arrested and held in Balbriggan Garda station for 18 hours. During a series of interviews he replied “no comment” to most questions other than basic ones about his name and rank.
Chief Supt Clerkin 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.”
Mícheál P O’Higgins SC, for the former commissioners and Garda headquarters, said the evidence heard from Chief Supt Clerkin was relevant to the credibility and motivation of Supt Taylor.