David Taylor’s claims come up against reporters’ brick wall

Two more crime correspondents yesterday told the Disclosures Tribunal that they were never briefed negatively by any gardaí about Sergeant Maurice McCabe.

Eavan Murray: I believed then and I believe now that I was never briefed negatively by Superintendent Taylor

Both had initially claimed journalistic privilege but on the day of their appearance changed their respective positions.

John Mooney from The Sunday Times and Eavan Murray of The Sun both adopted the same positions as their colleagues in The Irish Times, The Star, and the Mail On Sunday.

The tribunal was adjourned for two hours yesterday to consider a statement that had just been provided to the tribunal by Ms Murray. When she gave evidence after lunch, she said she did not initially respond to the tribunal because she did not think she had anything to contribute.

I believed then and I believe now that I was never briefed negatively by Superintendent [David] Taylor [or that] any member of the guards ever told me that he [Sgt McCabe] was a child abuser.

Supt Taylor has claimed that when he was head of the Garda press office, he briefed her and a list of 10 other reporters about Sgt McCabe, portraying him as a child abuser.

He claims to have used an allegation made by the daughter of a colleague of Sgt McCabe’s in 2006 about an alleged incident eight years previously.

Her father had been in dispute with Sgt McCabe. The garda who investigated it, the chief state solicitor, and the DPP all dismissed the girl’s allegation. The DPP stated that the allegation wasn’t even of a criminal nature.

Supt Taylor claims he used that allegation to smear Sgt McCabe because the sergeant was bringing forward complaints of malpractice within the force.

After making his protected disclosure in September 2016, he provided a list of nine reporters he claimed to have briefed. Later, when presented with evidence by tribunal investigators, he added two more names, including Ms Murray.

Yesterday, Ms Murray gave evidence that she travelled to the home of the girl, known as Ms D, in Cavan in 2014, and met her mother. Supt Taylor says he spoke to Ms Murray before she went up and “would have encouraged” her to travel, on the basis that any subsequent story would reflect badly on Sgt McCabe.

Ms Murray said yesterday she only spoke to Supt Taylor after she had returned from Cavan.

She says she got the D name from another journalist, and the story about the allegation in her newsroom in The Sun.

Ms Murray told the tribunal that she met Supt Taylor in February of this year.

Supt David Taylor

The superintendent had told the tribunal last month that they didn’t discuss the tribunal on that occasion. Yesterday, Ms Murray said that they did discuss the matter at that meeting.

Earlier, John Mooney, crime correspondent for The Sunday Times, also said that he was not briefed negatively by Supt Taylor about Sgt McCabe or any other guard. Initially, Mr Mooney had been claiming journalistic privilege.

He told the tribunal that he first heard of the 2006 allegation from a source other than a guard, but had it confirmed by a garda source.

That story and the allegation and background did not meet any threshold [for publication] in The Sunday Times, so I did not pursue it.

The five crime correspondents have not just dismissed Supt Taylor as a source of any negative briefing but have added that no garda ever approached them and attempted to portray Sgt McCabe as being in any way connected to child sexual abuse.

This would infer that not just Supt Taylor but nobody within the force ever suggested to any of these reporters that Sgt McCabe had questions to answer about child sexual abuse.

In such a scenario, Sgt McCabe’s complaints of malpractice were not discommoding anybody in the force to the extent that they attempted to blacken his character.

Except, allegedly, for the commissioner, Martin Callinan, who, three witnesses have testified, had portrayed Sgt McCabe to them in the darkest light. Mr Callinan denies this vehemently.

Supt Taylor’s claims in relation to the crime reporters named in his list are therefore coming up against a brick wall. He has not supplied any specifics about the alleged briefings. When he was asked by the tribunal for specifics, he would only say that he dropped these “briefings” into conversations with the reporters when interacting with them.

The list he presented is curious, particularly as he added to it only when presented with evidence by the tribunal. Is it possible that there were others who he forgot or neglected to inform the tribunal about? How come he cannot supply any specifics at all about these “briefings”?

Perhaps the most surprising aspect of the response from the reporters is that they have excluded all gardaí from any such attempt to blacken Sgt McCabe’s character using the discredited allegation.

Today, three journalists from the Irish Examiner, who also appear on Supt Taylor’s list, are scheduled to give evidence.

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