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Dublin: 3 °C Tuesday 12 November, 2019
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Only three of 15 senior garda phones handed over to Disclosures Tribunal

The phones were used by former Garda Commissioners Martin Callinan and Nóirín O’Sullivan, along with Superintendent David Taylor.

Martin Callinan and Nóirín O'Sullivan
Martin Callinan and Nóirín O'Sullivan
Image: Eamonn Farrell via RollingNews.ie

TWELVE OF FIFTEEN mobile phones belonging to senior garda officers are missing and cannot be provided to the Disclosures Tribunal.

The phones were used by former Garda Commissioners Martin Callinan and Nóirín O’Sullivan and by former garda press officer Superintendent David Taylor between 2012 and 2014.

This tribunal is looking at allegations in a confidential disclosure from Taylor that he was directed by former Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan to brief journalists negatively about whistleblower Sergeant Maurice McCabe.

Superintendent Michael Flynn, the superintendent in charge of the Garda Síochána Telecommunications Unit, gave details of garda efforts to recover the devices, which may contain text messages between the senior officers concerning McCabe.

Flynn said that metadata, information giving details of calls made and texts sent, was obtained from Three Ireland by Garda HQ, but the contents of text messages were not stored by the phone mobile provider.

Records going back seven years were retained by the company for audit purposes, and these were provided to An Garda Síochána as the bill payer. Landline records for the former commissioners were also retained at Garda HQ, Flynn said.

Identifying the accounts

Taylor and Inspector Liam Moroney identified the accounts containing billing information for the mobiles phones of former commissioners Callinan and O’Sullivan and Taylor in 2017, after the Disclosures Tribunal was established.

In March 2017, 24 boxes of telephone printouts were delivered to Garda HQ, containing records of 426 garda mobile phones between May 2012 and May 2014. Records relating to the officers were then extracted and supplied to the tribunal.

Of six phones used by O’Sullivan during the two year period, one was recovered and handed into the tribunal. Two Samsung Galaxy phones used outside the period under investigation were also made available.

Two out of six phones used by Callinan were also recovered. None of the three phones used by Taylor had been recovered.

Fundraising appeal

Flynn said as a result of a fundraising appeal, a programme had been in place which handed old garda phones to the Temple Street children’s hospital, and later to the Jack & Jill Foundation, after they were reset to factory settings.

He said this programme seemed to have wound down sometime in 2012, but he could not establish exactly when.

Phones might be retained by officers once contact and other official data was removed and transferred to new devices, he said, as the phones might often contain personal and family photographs, Flynn said. There was no requirement at the time to hand in old phones at the end of their life.

In response to questions from tribunal chairman Justice Peter Charleton, John Ferry BL, representing Taylor, said that it was not his client’s position that phones were tampered with by Flynn or anybody else.

Ferry said that on one occasion, “a Whatsapp went live on his phone at a particular time and that alarmed him”, and he became concerned as a result.

“Unfortunately those things keep happening,” Justice Charleton said.

“I got two of them myself a few days ago, and somebody from Australia keeps ringing me.”

Ferry also said that communication by text message and email from Taylor to the former commissioners would concern media reports about McCabe, or notices about radio interviews or upcoming stories and queries from journalists. Taylor made no reference to sexual allegations in text and email communications.

The tribunal resumes on Tuesday.

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Gerard Cunningham

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