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Superintendent describes former garda press officer as 'very difficult to work with'

He also said that David Taylor was “somewhat bitter about being moved” from the Garda Press Office.

Former garda press officer David Taylor
Former garda press officer David Taylor
Image: Laura Hutton via RollingNews.ie

Updated at 6.20pm

A SENIOR GARDA has told the Charleton Tribunal that he found it difficult to work with the former Garda press officer Superintendent David Taylor.

Superintendent John Ferris was being questioned by Tara Burns SC, who represents Taylor at the tribunal.

The tribunal is looking at an allegation in a confidential disclosure by Taylor that he was directed by former garda commissioner Martin Callinan to brief the media negatively on whistleblower Sergeant Maurice McCabe. Callinan denies giving such an order.

“Being honest, I found Superintendent Taylor, your client, difficult,” Ferris said to Burns. Ferris worked as an inspector in the Garda Press Office with Taylor.

‘Bitter’

A retired senior garda also told the Charleton tribunal today that former garda press officer Superintendent Taylor was “bitter” about being moved from his role in the press office in 2014.

Retired Superintendent Paul Moran, who succeeded Taylor in the role, told the Charleton tribunal that he met with Mr Taylor shortly after he took over the role.

“I think he was upset about being moved,” Moran said.

“He was somewhat bitter about being moved, that’s what I sensed from him myself. He wasn’t happy about being moved,” Moran told the tribunal.

Supt Taylor’s lawyer says he did not express anything explicit to Moran on his thoughts on the move.

Tara Burns Sc, representing Taylor, said her client’s instructions were that because he felt that Moran was close to former garda commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan, he did not express any specific view to him in relation to the Commissioner.

Moran said he deduced that Taylor was unhappy with being moved from his body language and from the conversation they had.

He said that on taking over the post of garda press officer on 10 June 2014, he met with Taylor and received “a comprehensive briefing” from him.

He testified that that if a journalist contacted him, he would refer them to the staff in the press office, and that interactions with journalists would be recorded on Spotlight, a system used by the press office.

Press releases

Ferris, who works in garda corporate communications, and worked in the Garda Press Office from 2007, said that at one stage Taylor took the view that the press office “should pump out press releases”.

“If there’s a lawnmower stolen from a house in Malahide, that does not justify a press release,” Ferris said.

Ferris also recounted an incident in which a crime reporter called him asking was he missing something in a press release about a Garda seizure of €5,000 worth of illegal drugs. This information might be sent to a local paper, he said, but not to the national media for a relatively small seizure.

Ferris said it was unusual for a superintendent to share an office, and he asked if that was okay when Taylor first arrived in the press office, and was told it was. But some weeks later, he arrived at work to find his desk “upside down in three pieces”.

Questioned by the Tribunal chairman, Mr Justice Peter Charleton, Ferris clarified he was not suggesting that Taylor broke his desk.

‘Very difficult’

“As an individual I found it very difficult to come to terms with how you could treat any employee in the manner in which I was treated,” Ferris said.

Ferris said he had a professional relationship with his superior, and attended the Garda press office Christmas outing, but outside of that he did not socialise with Taylor.

Ferris said that after Taylor was transferred out of the press office to the traffic section, he removed Taylor from a mailing list summarising media coverage of the force. He later removed the superintendent from the list a second time, after his name was added back to the mailing list.

Ferris also said that he once saw a staff member in the press office printing out contact details for journalists for Taylor, and told her not to do so.

Ferris said he had no recollection of Taylor saying he needed the press clippings in relation to a thesis he was working on at the time, and Taylor did not offer a reason why he wanted to be on the mailing list.

He said the only response from Taylor when told he was no longer on the mailing list was to ask who made the decision to remove him.

Ferris said he did not know anything about any campaign against McCabe, and “was never privy to any communication between the commissioner and Superintendent Taylor in relation to Sergeant McCabe.”

The tribunal resumes on Friday at 9am.

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Gerard Cunningham

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