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Three journalists say they were not given negative briefings about Maurice McCabe

By Gerard Cunningham

Update 6.33pm: Three journalists have told the Charleton tribunal they were not given negative briefings about garda whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe.

The tribunal is looking at allegations that senior gardaí were smearing the whistleblower to politicians, journalists and others.

The DPP directed no prosecution following an allegation of sexual abuse made in 2006 against Sgt McCabe, saying that no offence had been disclosed.

Former Irish Examiner editor Tim Vaughan told the tribunal he first became aware of allegations when he overheard "snippets of a conversation" on the Dublin-Cork train, with a reference to "abuse" or "abused".

Mr Vaughan said he thought this was towards the end of 2014.

Tim Vaughan arriving at the at the Disclosures Tribunal in Dublin Castle. Photo Gareth Chaney Collins

Mr Vaughan said that he later spoke to a source who was familiar with Dublin media circles, and was asked did he know there were rumours about Sgt McCabe. Mr Vaughan said his contact did not have further details.

Mr Vaughan said as a result he decided to speak to journalist Michael Clifford, who was leading the Examiner's coverage. Mr Clifford said earlier that he told his editor there was no basis for the rumours.

"I didn't get a briefing from anybody, negative or positive," Mr Vaughan said. "I didn't take it seriously because I considered Sgt McCabe a man of integrity”.

Mr Vaughan acknowledged that there was a point of view that it should be okay for the journalist to acknowledge the source of a story if the source had waived privilege.

But Mr Vaughan said this “could be a dangerous path to go down”, with unforeseen consequences.

“Protecting sources is at the heart of journalism and once you start pulling on that thread it starts unravelling and you have no way of knowing where it goes," he continued.

Mr Vaughan said a source could be under duress, or a second source might also be revealed, and there could be potential problems in relation to future contacts who would be reluctant to come forward.

Newstalk courts correspondent Frank Greaney said he had "professional dealings" with Supt David Taylor, who was garda press officer when he was working as a journalist with 98FM.

"He never mentioned Maurice McCabe whether it was in a negative light or otherwise," Mr Greaney said.


RTÉ journalist John Burke said that the Garda Press Office would give formal on-the-record replies to queries, but not off-the-record material.

Mr Burke said he did not receive any off the record briefings from Supt Taylor.

Mr Burke said that State bodies should do their business in public, and he would be wary of off-the-record briefings from State bodies.

Mr Burke said he was not aware of any allegations of sexual assault made against Sgt McCabe until made public in media reports.

Mr Burke sad he was "mystified" as to why he appeared on a list of journalists Supt Taylor said he briefed about Sgt McCabe.

Mr Burke said if he had heard such an allegation, the first thing he would have done would have been to ask Sgt McCabe or his representatives about it.

"The fact I did not speaks for itself," Mr Burke said.

Mr Burke said that after Supt Taylor was transferred out of the press office, the superintendent contacted him and they agreed to meet for a coffee in Dublin city centre.

"We met for a coffee, but nothing ever really came of it," Mr Burke said.

On 4 July 2015, Mr Burke sent an email to the garda press office seeking confirmation of the garda commissioner's instructions to counsel at the O'Higgins Commission about Sgt McCabe's motivations.

The tribunal has previously examined whether lawyers for the Commissioner were instructed that Sgt McCabe held a grudge over abuse allegations. Mr Burke said that he did not know the details of how Sgt McCabe's motivations were being questioned when he sent the email.

Mr Burke said he had not been aware of an anonymous letter sent to RTE making allegations against Sgt McCabe.

The tribunal continues tomorrow.

Original story (3.34pm): Journalist given impression that phones seized during garda inquiry were 'smoking gun', tribunal hears

By Gerard Cunningham

Journalist Michael Clifford has said that he was given the impression by former garda press Supt David Taylor that text messages on phones seized during a garda inquiry were a "smoking gun" containing evidence of a smear campaign against whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe.

The Irish Examiner journalist said he had no recollection of Supt Taylor using the phrase "smoking gun", but that "these phones had evidence of what went on previously."

Journalist Michael Clifford

Supt Taylor has since told the tribunal that there were no text messages sent about a smear campaign, and that directions to brief negatively about Sgt McCabe were given verbally.

Former garda commissioners Martin Callinan and Nóirín O'Sullivan deny there was a smear campaign against Sgt McCabe.

Mr Clifford said he was "floored" the first time he heard allegations of sexual abuse were being made against Sgt McCabe.

The Charleton tribunal is looking at allegations that senior gardaí were smearing the whistleblower to politicians, journalists and others.

[quote]"On the first occasion after I heard it, I was floored," Mr Clifford told the tribunal. "Out of the blue, this thing comes along."[/quote]

The DPP directed no prosecution following an allegation made in 2006 against Sgt McCabe, saying that no offence had been disclosed.

Mr Clifford told the tribunal that he heard about the abuse allegations against Sgt McCabe on three separate occasions.

Mr Clifford said the first occasion was in early 2014, in conversation with a source who told him, "There's an issue there".

Mr Clifford was told by the source there had been an allegation of child abuse against the sergeant, and the source said his information was "locally in Cavan."

"The general feeling was there wasn't any foundation to it, he wasn't guilty, but that was still there," Mr Clifford said.

Mr Clifford said he investigated further and satisfied himself that the allegations were without foundation.

The second source in the first half of 2015, a source who was "very familiar with politics", said to Mr Clifford "words to the effect, you know your man McCabe is a kiddy fiddler”.

Mr Clifford said he explained that he had already checked out this allegation, and there was no truth to it.

Mr Clifford said the third time he heard the allegation was from the then Irish Examiner editor Tim Vaughan.

[quote]"I reassured him, I've come across it, there's nothing to it, I think it' actually being used against the man," Mr Clifford said.[/quote]

Questioned by tribunal barrister Patrick Marrinan SC, Mr Clifford agreed that revealing the identity of his sources would not assist the tribunal in its inquiries. He said none of his sources were garda officers.

Mr Clifford said when he first heard the allegations against Sgt McCabe he was "floored". He said that when he learned that Sgt McCabe's legal team were aware of the allegations, this reassured him.

He said that after former press officer Supt David Taylor made a protected disclosure in 2016, he asked Supt Taylor three questions.

Supt David Taylor

In response, Supt Taylor confirmed to him that text messages were part of the alleged smear campaign, there was an intelligence file on Sgt McCabe in Garda HQ, and a garda officer had been appointed to monitor Sgt McCabe's use of the Pulse garda database.

Mr Taylor in his evidence last month said that texts did not contain any references to the smear campaign. The tribunal has also heard there was no intelligence file on Sgt McCabe at Garda HQ, and no one was assigned to monitor his Pulse activity.

Mr Clifford said it was not clear if text messages were sent to journalists, but said that Supt Taylor "most definitely said he sent texts of this nature to Nóirín O'Sullivan and to senior management in An Garda Síochána."

Mr Clifford said that in May 2015 he sent an email to Supt Taylor enclosing portions of his book referring to Supt Taylor, asking him to check what was written "particularly in terms of factual accuracy".

The only correction Supt Taylor made was to say that he had not been interviewed by the Children's Ombudsman over the Roma children case.

Mr Clifford said that in conversations, Supt Taylor "made a point of telling me every other super who had been in the press office had been promoted on leaving it”.

Mr Clifford agreed with Conor Dignam SC, on behalf of An Garda Síochána, that he had no direct knowledge of an orchestrated smear campaign against Sgt McCabe.

He said the Irish Examiner took the unprecedented step of reporting that confidential disclosures had been made in October 2016 because the disclosures involved a garda superintendent incriminating himself and a former commissioner in a smear campaign.

Mr Clifford said it was in the public interest to report this.

"It wasn't just desirable to publish, it was necessary to publish it," Mr Clifford said.

Mr Clifford said that Supt Taylor felt that his arrest in 2015 following an investigation into garda leaks was "humiliating".

"If he hadn't encountered his problems, I doubt very much any of us would be here," Mr Clifford said.

In later evidence a journalist with RTE told the tribunal he was mystified as to why Superintendent Dave Taylor mentioned him in a list of journalists he says he briefed negatively about Maurice McCabe.

John Burke from the This Week programme says he’s absolutely certain he was never negatively briefed by the former Garda Press Officer.

Earlier Frank Greaney from Newstalk told the Tribunal he was never negatively briefed either.

The Tribunal is currently examining claims Superintendent Taylor was directed to smear Sergeant McCabe.