Supt David Taylor, as then head of the Garda Press Office, saw his time dominated by the whistelblower controversies — and now he is implicating Garda top brass in that sorry affair, writes Special Correspondent Michael Clifford
SUPERINTENDENT David Taylor is a highly unlikely whistleblower.
He has been named as the man who has made allegations that there was an organised campaign in senior Garda management to destroy the reputation of another whistleblower within the force. Significantly, Supt Taylor is admitting his own role in the campaign, but also implicating other senior managers, including the current commissioner, Nóirín O’Sullivan.
The commissioner has stated that she had absolutely no knowledge or involvement in any such campaign.
Supt Taylor’s allegations are potentially explosive. If found to have substance, the allegations point to a culture within the force that is far more corrosive than heretofore believed. It would also call into question the credibility of the commissioner’s repeated claims that she welcomes internal complaints from officers. At a time when the force is beset by both industrial relations problems and reports of major divisions within management, the Supt Taylor allegations represent a major threat to the continued tenure of the current commissioner.
While a number of officers have come forward in recent years with complaints of malpractice, this is the first time that somebody of Supt Taylor’s rank has made that leap.
As the force’s chief press officer during the turbulent years of 2013 and 2014, he was at the centre of power, based in HQ, and closely liaising with then commissioner Martin Callinan, and Nóirín O’Sullivan, who was Callinan’s deputy. His role provided a unique insight into what went on at the very top of An Garda Síochána.
Now he is reportedly claiming that among his duties was to furnish the media with scurrilous rumours and lies about a whistleblower, understood to be Sgt Maurice McCabe. He was also, he claims, party to texts that were circulated among senior management about the whistleblower which were designed to damage him. And he says there was an intelligence file created on Sgt McCabe, a move that is usually reserved for those suspected of serious criminal behaviour.
So how did he get to his current station? David Taylor is a native of Tipperary who joined the gardaí in 1982. After a spell in Dublin he was transferred to Special Branch where he was involved in specialised operations against subversive elements at a time when the Northern Ireland troubles were particularly violent.
He was promoted to sergeant in 1997 and later to inspector. He served as a detective in internal affairs, which looks at issues including discipline and complaints among the gardaí, before he moved to crime and security. One of his duties in that posting was to accompany presidents on overseas trips for which he received commendation from both the current incumbent in the Áras and his predecessor, Mary McAleese.
He had, over those years, a perfect disciplinary record and had settled in north Dublin, where he still lives with his wife and family.
In July 2012, Supt Taylor was promoted to superintendent and detailed to head up the force’s press office. He may well have expected that a stint there would be followed by a promotion to chief, as this was precisely the route taken by all his predecessors in the press office.
Among the media he was regarded as professional and courteous in his role. He managed to negotiate a difficult brief in which one of the main duties is to give as little away as possible while appearing to be effusive with information.
His time in the press office was dominated by the whistleblower controversies, which ultimately did for his boss, Callinan, in May 2014. The new commissioner, Nóirín O’Sullivan, naturally wanted her own personnel in the sensitive role so Supt Taylor was not surprised when he was transferred. He didn’t receive a promotion, and he wasn’t happy that he was going to the traffic division but he accepted his lot.
Later that year, a criminal investigation was initiated by the commissioner into the leaking to the media in 2013 of the names of two Roma children at the centre of a media storm.
The investigation was headed up by a chief super, and the commissioner’s husband, Supt Jim McGowan (who has since been promoted to chief).
In December 2014, Supt Taylor’s phone was confiscated by the investigation. This is the same phone that would have trafficked the texts which he claims were an integral part of the alleged smear campaign against Sgt McCabe.
In May 2015, Supt Taylor was arrested and held in a cell for 10 hours for leaking the names of the Roma children to the media. He has been suspended since on reduced pay, and the shock of his changed circumstances are understood to have impacted greatly on his home life, including his family’s standard of living.
The file on his case is with the DPP which has yet to officially decide whether charges be preferred.
Supt Taylor took legal action to stop the investigation, but the High Court has yet to rule on that.
His dramatic fall from the upper echelons of the force has attracted sympathy in many quarters of An Garda Síochána, anger in some, and sheer puzzlement among others.
As one retired senior officer put it: “Proportionality is the big problem. If he did something wrong so be it, but the operation that was mounted against him bears no relation to the business of passing names to the media, whether or not he was involved in that.”
Many right across the force have questioned the judgement and motivation of the commissioner in pursuing the investigation and particularly in appointing her husband to a central role.
Now, things have moved onto a different plane for Supt Taylor. He is willing to blow the whistle on what he claims was wrongdoing at the highest level. Sources familiar with his case say that he is motivated by attempting to right some of the wrongs within the force, having played his own part in an alleged grievous wrong visited on one of their own.
A couple of years ago, he was the one shaping the stories that emerged from the force. This week he became the story, and will play a central role in any inquiry into the latest chapter of whistleblowers in An Garda Síochána.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved