Protected disclosure was not part of campaign to bring down Noirin O'Sullivan, tribunal hears

By Gerard Cunningham

Former garda press officer Supt David Taylor has said he did not become fixated on former garda commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan and her husband when he was investigated for media leaks and did not make a protected disclosure in order to undermine her.

The Charleton tribunal is examining allegations by Supt Taylor that he was directed by former garda commissioner Martin Callinan to brief the media negatively on whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe, and that his then deputy commissioner Ms O'Sullivan was aware of the campaign. Both Mr Callinan and Ms O'Sullivan deny this.

In his third day of evidence, Supt Taylor was cross examined by Micheál P O'Higgins SC, who represents an Garda Síochána, Mr Callinan, and Ms O'Sullivan.

Former Garda Press Officer Supt David Taylor.

Mr O'Higgins put it to Supt Taylor that he was fixated on Ms O'Sullivan and her husband, and was bitter towards Ms O'Sullivan and intent on undermining her.

Mr O'Higgins said the protected disclosure made by Supt Taylor in 2016 was part of a political campaign to undermine commissioner O'Sullivan. Supt Taylor had to also involve Commissioner Callinan in the alleged smear campaign against Sgt McCabe, as at the time Ms O'Sullivan was the deputy commissioner.

Mr O'Higgins said that nobody would believe she was involved in a smear campaign without Mr Callinan. "I reject that," Supt Taylor said.

Asked by the tribunal chairman if the protected disclosure he made in September 2016 was part of a political campaign to bring down Ms O'Sullivan as garda commissioner, Supt Taylor replied "Absolutely not."

"I was suspended from duty I did not have to ability to do any such thing," Supt Taylor said.

Supt Taylor said that when he was suspended from duty following an inquiry into garda media leaks, he felt for his family.

"I was very concerned for my wife and my two children. My income had been cut," Supt Taylor said. "I was deeply upset and concerned for my family at the loss of our income."

[timgcap-Former Commissioner, Noirin O'Sullivan]exam260314NoirinOSullivan_large.jpg[/timgcap]

Supt Taylor said when he met with journalist Michael Clifford in the Summer of 2016, it was to discuss his own situation, as by then he had been out of work for 17 or 18 months.

Supt Taylor said that when he met with TDs Mick Wallace and Clare Daly in October 2016, he did not tell Mr Wallace that Ms O'Sullivan was a liar, or "when she moves, she's lying".

"That's his words," Supt Taylor said. The superintendent said he thought it was "very unusual that a garda commissioner would appoint her own husband to investigate another officer”

Supt Taylor was asked about a statement by Mick Wallace, who told the tribunal that Supt Taylor said "they were out to shaft him now in a way that was not dissimilar to what had been done to Maurice" (McCabe).

Supt Taylor said he did not say this, and he would never compare his situation to that of Maurice McCabe.

Asked by the tribunal chairman, Mr Justice Peter Charleton if he believed that Ms O'Sullivan's husband Supt Jim McGowan was appointed to an investigation team as part of "some kind of deliberate vendetta", Supt Taylor said he could not say as a certainly that it was, but said he felt it was a probability.

Earlier today the former Garda Press Officer also denied telling journalists that there was "no smoke without fire" in an historical allegation of sexual assault against garda whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe.

Supt Taylor has told the tribunal that he was directed to mention to journalists an allegation of sexual assault made in 2006 against Sgt McCabe. The DPP directed no prosecution in the case following a garda investigation.

In a statement to the tribunal made last year Supt Taylor said the narrative for journalists he was briefing was “there was no smoke without fire” in relation to the allegation.

"I would say that I did always clarify to the journalists that a file had gone to the DPP and that there was no prosecution, however this was the narrative.

"It was put in such a way that there was no smoke without fire. I would drop that in when talking to the journalists."

In his evidence today, Supt Taylor denied that he was directed to brief journalists in this way.

"I merely imparted information as directed by the commissioner that Sgt McCabe was driven by revenge emanating from the investigation.

"I was to say that Maurice McCabe was driven by agenda, he is motivated by revenge, and that motivation is driven by the allegation," Supt Taylor testified.

Giving evidence for a third day, Supt Taylor said that former Commissioner Noirín O'Sullivan and civilian Communications Director Andrew McLindon were the only other people within An Garda Síochána aware of Mr Callinan's direction. Both Ms O'Sullivan and Mr McLindon deny this.

Questioned by Micheál P O'Higgins, counsel for the Garda Commissioner, Supt Taylor said that before meeting with Sgt McCabe in September 2016 he had spoken about the smear campaign with his wife and with a priest.

Supt Taylor said he contacted journalist Michael Clifford in 2016 to thank him for an article, and that Sgt McCabe rang him "out of the blue" some weeks later.

"I said I'd ring him aback. I wasn't going to ring him, and my wife decided to ring him," Supt Taylor said.

Counsel asked Supt Taylor how his wife reacted when he had told her about the campaign against Sgt McCabe. "You're asking me to give an opinion of somebody's reaction, I can't do that," the witness said.

Supt Taylor said that the campaign came to an end with the departure of Commissioner Martin Callinan from office. The superintendent said there were no discussions with Acting Commissioner O'Sullivan or Mr McLindon about continuing the campaign.

"When Commissioner Callinan left it stopped, I can say no more than that," Supt Taylor said.

Supt Taylor said the press office was not used to smear Sgt McCabe, as it would not have been appropriate. The office dealt with "run of the mill queries from journalists".

Maurice McCabe.

"It was a direction given by the commissioner at that level, and that's the level it was kept at," Supt Taylor said.

Supt Taylor said none of the eleven journalists he has named in statements who got negative briefings showed any reaction when they were briefed, and "it was just part of the conversation."

Mr O'Higgins said it was a peculiarity that none of the journalists came back asking for more information or documents about Sgt McCabe or the investigation after they were briefed negatively.

Supt Taylor said that he realised the campaign was wrong by the time he made his protected disclosure in September 2016.

"It was an evolution in my thought process. What I had been asked to do was wrong and I wanted to right it," Supt Taylor said.

Supt Taylor said he was "disappointed" when he was moved from the press office to the traffic division. "I''d given a lot of work to the Press Office. I felt I'd done a good job I was in the middle of my Masters studies at that point in relation to media," Supt Taylor said.

Mr O'Higgins said that in the traffic office, Supt Taylor "conducted a class of private press office from Dublin Castle”. Supt Taylor said this was not true.

Supt Taylor said he had no recollection of sending a text to a colleague stating "I'm currently in the dungeon at Dublin Castle awaiting parole."

"You took this very hard indeed. You took it personally. You regarded it as a significant and dramatic fall from grace," Mr O'Higgins said. Supt Taylor said he had not asked for the transfer to new duties.

Supt Taylor said that Ms O'Sullivan wouldn't be his "number one choice" for Garda Commissioner. He said he did not recall telling a colleague he was "gutted" by Ms O'Sullivan's appointment.

Supt Taylor said he was embarrassed when he had to present himself for arrest following an inquiry into garda leaks, but said he was not impugning the officers who questioned him or calling them heavy-handed.

Supt Taylor said he showed up at Balbriggan garda station by appointment, and wasn't a flight risk, and should not have been placed in a police cell.

"It was very robust, I was stripped of my belt, my shoes, my epaulettes, and I was placed in my cell. I've been a custody officer. It's not always necessary to place people in cells,” Supt Taylor said.

Supt Taylor said that he had never been able to find out how a phone in garda custody had "come alive" and sent a message about joining a "Viber" group when it was no longer in his possession.

"I can only just say what happened to the phone and I don't know what happened to it. Maybe there's a legitimate reason why it came alive," Supt Taylor said.

Supt Taylor said he did not "forensically read" a chapter of a book sent to him by journalist Michael Clifford which recounted his involvement with Sgt McCabe.

Michelle Taylor

Mrs Michelle Taylor's evidence was interposed in the afternoon, and her husband, Supt Taylor will continue his own evidence tomorrow.

"I knew that there was negative feelings towards Sgt McCabe because of the penalty points, " Mrs Taylor said.

Mrs Taylor said her husband told her that he was to brief journalists on Sgt McCabe that "there was a backstory, there was a reason for this, there was more to this than just penalty points”.

Mrs Taylor said she was "a bit shocked" that there was a campaign against Sgt McCabe, but did not "tease it out" any further.

"I believed him, I believed what he was doing. I think he believed what he was doing was the right thing," Mrs McCabe said.

"I didn't really think about it at that stage to be honest I didn't give it an awful lot of thought."

Mrs Taylor said she met with Sgt McCabe for coffee in the Skylon Hotel in Dublin in 2016, and some time later Sgt McCabe visited the Taylor family home.

Mrs Taylor said that Supt Taylor was "very emotional" at the meeting.

She said that her husband told Sgt McCabe "I have to be honest with you, there was a campaign against you and I was part of it." Mrs Taylor said her husband never called Ms O'Sullivan the "pusher" behind the smear campaign.

She said her husband told Sgt McCabe, he was to brief any media he met that there was a backstory and that Sgt McCabe was motivated by revenge because of the Miss D investigation.

The DPP directed no prosecution against Sgt McCabe following a 2006 garda investigation into an abuse allegation from Miss D against Sgt McCabe.

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