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Former garda press officer ordered to brief against Maurice McCabe, tribunal told

By Gerard Cunningham

Former Garda press officer David Taylor has told the Charleton Tribunal that former garda commissioner Martin Callinan ordered him to tell journalists that garda whistleblower Maurice McCabe was motivated by “maliciousness and revenge”.

The tribunal is examining allegations made in a protected disclosure by Supt Taylor that he was directed by Mr Callinan to brief the media negatively on Sgt McCabe. Mr Callinan denies this.

Supt Taylor said that in 2013 Mr Callinan was "getting deeply frustrated the penalty points issue was not abating". The scandal was reflecting badly on An Garda Síochána, and reflecting badly on the commissioner.

"You have to understand, something that reflects badly on An Garda Síochána is something that cannot be tolerated," Supt Taylor said.

Martin Callinan

Supt Taylor said he was told by Mr Callinan of a garda investigation into Sgt McCabe following an allegation of abuse in 2006. The DPP directed no prosecution in the case, saying there was no evidence of a crime being committed.

Supt Taylor said that Mr Callinan told him this case was "the epicentre, the core of why he was involved in this campaign" by Sgt McCabe.

[quote]"I was given specific instructions to take every opportunity I had with media to drop it into conversations," Supt Taylor said.[/quote]

Supt Taylor said that if a conversation with a journalist featured Sgt McCabe he was to say "there's a backstory here".

Supt Taylor said the Garda was "a disciplined force” and said “if a garda commissioner gives you a direct order, you act on it."

Supt Taylor said he was not a personal friend of Mr Callinan, adding “he was the garda commissioner, he was four ranks before me. I respected the man”.

The tribunal heard that on 28 March 2013, Supt Taylor sent a text message to Mr Callinan after he left his post as garda commissioner.

The message read:

[quote]“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.[/quote]

“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 let me know. Dave.”

Supt Taylor said that by the time he decided to make his protected disclosure in 2016, he was suspended from duty, and "was away from the hothouse and the influence of An Garda Síochána”.

"I could see in a more clearer light probably, things I didn't see when I was part of the force," Supt Taylor said.

In the protected disclosures, Supt Taylor wrote: “I can confirm there was a campaign at the highest level in An Garda Síochána involving the then Commissioner, Martin Callinan and the then Deputy Commissioner, now Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan to discredit Maurice McCabe”.

Supt Taylor stated that he "was to brief the media that Sgt McCabe was motivated by maliciousness and revenge".

[quote]"I was also directed to draw journalists' attention to the complaint of sexual assault made against Sgt McCabe and that this was the root cause of his agenda – revenge against the Garda," Supt Taylor wrote.[/quote]

Supt Taylor he was not seeking any "personal protection" in making the disclosure, and his "primary motive was to bring the information I had to the relevant authority”.

"I got the instruction around the middle of 2013 to take the opportunity to draw the media's attention to Sgt McCabe's motivation,” Supt Taylor testified today.

Supt Taylor said he thought the campaign against Sgt McCabe ended when Mr Callinan stepped down as garda commissioner. He said the force was in "a state of flux", and it was the biggest upheaval in An Garda Síochána since a commissioner was dismissed in 1983.

Supt Taylor said that after an appearance before the Public Accounts Committee in January 2014, John McGuinness TD went to shake hands with Mr Callinan.

Supt Taylor said he did not hear the beginning of their conversation, but "when I looked around I could hear Mr Callinan say that Sgt McCabe is a kiddy fiddler”.

He said he was not aware of a conversation between Mr McGuinness and Mr Callinan the following day in a hotel car park, and did not later tell Sgt McCabe about it.

Mr Taylor said that his instructions to brief against Sgt McCabe were given "verbally", and any texts he sent to the commissioner were "background updates" about media reports on Sgt McCabe.

Supt Taylor said that his understanding was that any text messages were available to An Garda Síochána, as text messages had been put to him during his arrest in 2015 during an investigation into media leaks when Roma children were taken into garda custody in October 2013.

Tribunal chairman Mr Justice Peter Charleton said the phone Supt Taylor had in October 201 had never been handed in to garda custody.

Supt Taylor said that he gave the phone to his daughter, and it was later donated to charity.

"My understanding is all that data would be available irrespective of where the phone is," Supt Taylor said.

Maurice McCabe

In a statement, Supt Taylor said previously that data from this phone was transferred to a newer phone in September 2014 at Garda HQ by Insp Liam Moroney. Last week Insp Moroney told the tribunal that this did not happen.

Supt Taylor said that Mr Callinan was "very annoyed" when a story broke about his penalty points being cancelled, and was "quite agitated a journalist had called to his house, his private house, it was a total breach of his privacy."

Mr Callinan said that any enquiry should have been made to the Garda press office, and asked Supt Taylor to pass on his annoyance that it was "extremely unprofessional" of a journalist to call to his home address.

Supt Taylor said he did not speak to the journalist but he did speak to the managing director of the newspaper a number of days later at an event.

Supt Taylor said the reason he moved Insp John Ferris out of a shared office was so that he could have an empty office nearby.

"In Garda HQ if you don't use an office you lose it," Supt Taylor said.