Disclosures Tribunal hears how editorial staff 'rained down' on 'rogue journalist' after penalty points story

Former garda commissioner Martin Callinan has told the Disclosures Tribunal that he was on his way to meet with a security source when he incurred penalty points for speeding.

Mr Callinan was deputy garda commissioner in July 2007 when he had penalty points cancelled on his car. The story was later broken by Gemma Doherty and published in the Irish Independent in April 2013.

On day 82 of the Disclosures Tribunal, Mr Callinan testified that an official garda car would not have been suitable given the particular matter he was dealing with at the time.

"It was a security issue, it was a source actually that I was going to deal with something that was going to happen and it was particularly urgent," Mr Callinan said.

Mark Harty SC, for Gemma O'Doherty, asked Mr Callinan if he was aware that editorial staff in Independent Newspapers "rained down like a ton of bricks" on his client after she called to Mr Callinan's family home.

"She was told she had ruined things, that she was a rogue journalist,” counsel said.

Mr Callinan said he did not have details of a meeting between Supt Taylor and Assistant Commissioner John Twomey with senior editors from Independent Newspapers.

Former garda commissioner Martin Callinan.

"I just didn't involve myself in any of that," Mr Callinan said. The former commissioner could not recall if he had received a report back from the meeting.

Mr Harty said his client had called to Mr Callinan's home to verify that the address of the penalty notice was that of the commissioner, and had identified herself as a journalist and asked if the commissioner lived there.

He said the document available to Ms O'Doherty did not identify Mr Callinan as the garda commissioner, and a responsible journalist would have to check the information.

Mr Callinan said that the journalist called "late in the evening at a time when I was away. I felt this was a matter to be dealt with by the garda press office which was open from 7am until 11pm."

Mr Callinan said that when he learned of the visit to his home he spoke with garda press officer Supt David Taylor and asked him to contact the newspaper.

David Taylor.

"I didn't think this was the appropriate manner to conduct enquiries calling to my home," Mr Callinan said.

Barrister for Independent News & Media, John Freeman, said his clients "completely rejected" Ms O'Doherty's allegations and would address them at a later time. Ms O'Doherty is scheduled to give evidence next week.

As Mr Callinan completed his evidence, tribunal chairman Mr Justice Peter Charleton said he was still puzzled as to how Supt Taylor was chosen for the post of press officer.

"However you look at it, it must be one of the worst mistakes of your life," the chairman said.

Mr Callinan said he would “absolutely agree”.

"I thought he would be a good choice and that's why I put him in there. The rest, as they as, is history as to what has unfolded," Mr Callinan said.

Earlier Mr Callinan agreed with Conor Dignam, representing the garda commissioner, that he did not direct or instruct Supt Taylor to set up a meeting or have a meeting with Ms O'Doherty's employers.

Mr Callinan was also asked by Mr Dignam, what he would have expected a responsible public representative to do if they were told by the commissioner of allegations of abuse against Sgt McCabe.

"I would have expected that those allegations would have been laid at the feet of the Minister for Justice or the Taoiseach or both, and I also believe they would be brought to the O'Higgins commission," Mr Callinan said. Mr Callinan said that GSOC would be another option.

Sgt Maurice McCabe.

The tribunal is examining allegations by former garda press officer Supt David Taylor that he was directed by Mr Callinan to brief the media negatively on Sgt McCabe.

Mr Callinan said that he never directed any smear campaign, and the allegations made by Supt Taylor were false.

Mr Callinan said it was not in his nature to use bad language, and did not describe former Garda John Wilson as "a fucking headbanger" after his appearance before the Oireachtas Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on 23 January 2014, where he was questioned about the penalty points scandal.

Former Garda John Wilson.

Mr Callinan said he had asked John McGuinness TD, then chairman of the PAC, if Mr Wilson would be called as a witness to the public accounts committee and Mr McGuinness replied "you must be joking, he's an effing header".

Mr Callinan said he had never heard the expression "kiddie fiddler" before the tribunal began, and had never heard an anecdote about Garda Wilson taking a horse into police custody on Grafton Street.

Mr Callinan said that he did not make the statements alleged by Mr McGuinness during a meeting in a hotel car park the day after his PAC appearance.

Darren Lehane BL for Mr McGuinness, asked what motive his client would have for falsifying evidence.

"I cannot answer that Mr Chairman, that's between him and his maker and I'm happy to go to mine knowing I told the truth today" Mr Callinan said.

"You have spun a web of lies around your interactions with people about Sgt McCabe and your evidence to this tribunal has been an attempt to entrap Mr McGuinness within that web of lies," Mr Lehane said.

Mr Callinan said this was untrue. The tribunal resumes next Tuesday when former commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan gives evidence.

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