From top: Lorraine and Maurice McCabe; Supt Dave Taylor, Eavan Murray and Fergus O’Shea
Reporters from Ireland’s three main ‘red top’ tabloids gave evidence at the Disclosures Tribunal: Eavan Murray, of The Irish Sun; Michael O’Toole, of the Irish Daily Star; and Cathal McMahon, formerly of the Irish Mirror.
Eavan Murray, of The Irish Sun, gave evidence as she visited the D house in early 2014 and, after the D family told the tribunal about this visit, Supt Dave Taylor confirmed that she was one of the journalists he negatively briefed about Ms D and Sgt Maurice McCabe.
Michael O’Toole, of the Irish Daily Star, gave evidence as he was one of the initial nine journalists named by Supt Taylor as having been negatively briefed by him. Mr O’Toole didn’t physically visit the D house in early 2014 but the tribunal heard he did make contact with Mr D via Facebook around that time – according to Mr D.
Cathal McMahon, formerly of the Irish Mirror, also gave evidence after the Irish Mirror‘s editor John Kierans told its investigators that Mr McMahon came to him about the Ms D matter and Sgt McCabe in early 2014.
As Mr McMahon was in the witness box, counsel for Supt Taylor said Mr McMahon was also a journalist whom he negatively briefed. The tribunal heard Supt Taylor didn’t include him in the original list as he was no longer working as a journalist at the time.
Ms Murray, Mr O’Toole and Mr McMahon all deny being negatively briefed by Supt Taylor.
Following on from Mr McMahon’s evidence, the editor of the Irish Mirror John Kierans answered questions in the tribunal while The Irish Sun‘s former deputy head of news Fergus O’Shea also gave evidence, following on from Ms Murray’s evidence.
Eavan Murray started working as a journalist in the Sunday World in Belfast in 2006, after having worked in social services.
She later worked with the Star on Sunday in Dublin, the Irish News of the World, the Irish Daily Mirror and then went back to the Sunday World in Belfast.
In November 2013, she took up a full-time position as a news reporter with the Irish Sun in Dublin and she told the tribunal it wasn’t until early 2014 that she first came in contact with Supt Taylor at a murder scene.
Ms Murray’s first phone contact with Supt Taylor was on February 10, 2014, and the tribunal heard this contact came about because the Irish Sun‘s crime editor Stephen Breen was going on holidays and, while he was away, he suggested she make contact with Supt Taylor in order to be on the Garda Press Office mailing list.
Ms Murray would go on to have extensive contacts with Supt Taylor – especially after he was moved out of the Garda Press Office to the Traffic department in Dublin Castle in June 2014.
The tribunal heard that billing records show Supt Taylor had 11,000 communications with journalists between September 2014 and December 2014 – a quarter (2,800) of these were with Ms Murray; while 190 were with John Mooney, of The Sunday Times, and 17 were with Juno McEnroe, of the Irish Examiner.
Ms Murray remained in regular contact with Supt Taylor until he was arrested and suspended in May 2015, the tribunal heard.
However, these communications are not central to the terms of reference of the Disclosures Tribunal as its chairman Judge Peter Charleton is looking at what occurred during the time period of the alleged smear campaign against Sgt McCabe which, according to the former head of the Garda Press Office Supt Taylor, took place from mid-2013 until the day the then Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan resigned in March 2014.
[Ms Murray said that from September 2014 onwards her communications with Supt Taylor increased after he asked her for her help with his college work and thesis – which she agreed to. Supt Taylor was studying for a Masters in Political Communication at the time at Dublin City University]
Evidence given to the tribunal via reports from Forensic Science Northern Ireland – which studied the phones, iPads and laptops recovered by the tribunal from Supt Taylor and former Garda Commissioners Martin Callinan and Nóirín O’Sullivan – showed Ms Murray helped Supt Taylor write an essay for his course in November 2014.
The essay was a study of how The Irish Sun versus The Irish Times covered the resignation of Martin Callinan. It included references to Ms Murray’s own reporting on the matter and concluded that The Irish Sun showed “a more balanced and in-depth scrutiny of the government’s role in the issue which was lacking in The Irish Times at times”.]
Supt Taylor’s communications with journalists – before and after he was moved out of the Garda Press Office in June 2014 – were the focus of a Garda criminal investigation and Ms Murray told the tribunal she was “deeply traumatised” by those events.
She also said it was somewhat as a consequence of that experience that she declined to tell the tribunal – after it stated writing to her from March 2017 – about her contacts with Supt Taylor and that she believed she hadn’t been negatively briefed.
The tribunal heard Ms Murray’s consistent reply to the tribunal, when it sent her letters seeking information, was:
“It is my practice as a journalist not to comment on news-gathering activities or sources. I believe that I have certain professional obligations in that regard. I note from your letter that the Tribunal will be considering the issue of journalistic privilege.”
[This is the same response John Mooney, of The Sunday Times – which, along with The Irish Sun, is owned by News Corp – gave to the tribunal when it wrote to him.]
It was put to Ms Murray that if it was the case that she wasn’t negatively briefed, she could have told the tribunal this without infringing on her journalistic privilege. She agreed.
She also said:
“In retrospect, I suppose I probably should have then… I was anxious at the time… I suppose the best way I can explain it, Chairman, it’s kind of counterintuitive to everything…I was deeply traumatised over everything that went on, to be honest…I can only tell you my feelings at the time. I couldn’t believe that I was being dragged into another situation.”
“I was adopting the position just that I felt, you know, a lot of journalists were taking. I mean, as I said before, it’s hugely counterintuitive to you when you’re being asked questions about your contacts with any guard, any source, you know…”
Even when Ms Murray, represented by solicitor Simon McAleese at the time, met with the tribunal’s investigators in October 2017 – at which point the tribunal had been told by the D family that Ms Murray had visited the D house in early 2014 – Ms Murray still “effectively said nothing”, Diarmaid McGuinness SC, for the tribunal, told the tribunal.
It also heard an attempt had been made by Ms Murray to give the tribunal’s investigators information “off the record” but the investigators couldn’t accept this – and didn’t hear what this information would have been.
Eitherway, Ms Murray was categorical when she gave evidence that she wasn’t negatively briefed by Supt Taylor in early 2014, saying that, at that time, “I barely knew him at all”.
Ms Murray also claims that she never spoke to Supt Taylor before she visited the D house.
It’s been Supt Taylor’s evidence that he did know she (and separately Debbie McCann, of the Irish Mail on Sunday) was going to call to the D house and that he encouraged them both, separately, to go. Ms Murray told the tribunal Supt Taylor’s evidence on this is “not true”.
Supt Taylor has also told the tribunal that he would have contacted the then Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan to relay to him what the journalists told him [ SuptTaylor].
He also told the tribunal that he confirmed for Ms Murray, and Ms McCann, that it was Mr D’s daughter who made the allegation against Sgt McCabe; and that the two female journalists knew of An Garda Siochana’s attitude towards Sgt McCabe because of “previous briefings”.
Ms Murray said all of Supt Taylor’s claims above were untrue.
But Ms Murray did confirm one claim made by Supt Taylor – that she did speak to him about her visit after it took place.
Until Ms Murray gave evidence, the tribunal was of the understanding that Ms Murray was the second journalist to visit the D house in early 2014 – after Debbie McCann, of the Irish Mail on Sunday, and before Paul Williams, of the Irish Independent.
[When Mr Williams gave evidence, he said that when he went to the D house, the D family told him that Ms Murray had already called to the house]
But when Ms Murray gave evidence, she claimed she was at the D house after Mr Williams.
Ms Murray said the reason she believes she was there after Mr Williams is because, according to Ms Murray, Ms D’s parents spoke to her about a video interview Mr Williams had done with Ms D when he first met her on March 8, 2014.
“…they were quite anxious about the fact that she [Ms D] had done an interview to camera.”
Ms Murray claims she went to the D house prompted by the knowledge that the Irish Independent was going to publish a “huge exclusive” which was to “run over a number of days” about Sgt McCabe, Ms D and a child sex abuse allegation.
She said she first heard about this from the deputy news editor at The Irish Sun at the time, Fergus O’Shea, and that he told her to go to the D house.
Mr O’Shea, who left the Irish Sun in June 2017, told the tribunal he can’t recall sending Ms Murray to the D house.
He told the tribunal, in a statement:
“I remember Ms Murray coming to me and saying there may have been an allegation which was somewhat unclear made against Maurice McCabe and that the alleged victim might be willing to talk to us.”
Mr O’Shea also said he hadn’t heard of any allegation against Sgt McCabe prior to Ms Murray bringing it to his attention.
He also said he brought what Ms Murray said to the then editor Paul Clarkson and that they were wary of the matter as Sgt McCabe was a whistleblower.
Mr O’Shea said, because of a potential defamation case, “we just said leave it alone”. (Ms Murray told the tribunal she was not told not to go to the D house.)
Mr O’Shea said that a number of weeks later, he learned that Ms Murray had gone to the D house in Cavan. But, he said, he didn’t know how that visit came to occur.
“I mean, I was number two on the news desk, so depending who was working that day, it probably would have come from the person above me or from the editor. I find it hard to believe I would have made that decision on my own.”
Mr O’Shea also said he couldn’t recall ever hearing about the Irish Independent‘s pending articles on Ms D and Sgt McCabe.
“I can’t see how I would have got that information and I would have no problem sharing it here if I had. I guess there is a possibility that someone in the office got wind of it and in that way it came up and then was decided that she went, that is her recollection, that is fair enough, but it wasn’t through me.”
Ms Murray said:
“I don’t know how they [The Irish Sun] came to know about it, but it wouldn’t be unusual that we would hear that one newspaper has a big story, you know, it wouldn’t be unusual at all. I mean, particularly, I suppose, Paul Williams is a very accomplished and experienced man, he tends to, when he has big stories, they’re massive stories – you know, he had the Anglo tapes and things like that – so you pay attention.
“It wouldn’t be unusual for us to hear that another newspaper had a big story.”
Ms Murray also told the tribunal she never spoke to Mr Williams about his pending articles and that she doesn’t know him “at all”.
[Stephen Rae, then Group Editor of INM, told the tribunal, he was very surprised to learn the Irish Sun had heard about the pending articles in the Irish Independent]
Ms Murray said the purpose of her going up to the D house was to ensure that, if the Irish Independent, did publish a story, then The Irish Sun wouldn’t be wholly behind.
She said she had initially heard about the Ms D allegation against Sgt McCabe in either January or February of 2014 but she didn’t yet know Ms D’s identity.
The information came to her by way of a conversation with someone about the penalty points controversy and the person with whom Ms Murray was speaking was “sick” of hearing about the penalty points in the news.
Ms Murray also told the tribunal that she felt somewhat sorry for gardai at the time of the penalty points controversy, saying:
“I thought that maybe it was being politicised unfairly in some way. You know, I think I felt that — my job at the time, I was covering courts a huge amount of the time, and I can remember feeling quite sorry for regular guards, thinking that they are being sort of done down constantly by this one issue that I thought there was, you know — that was my feeling at the time.”
In a fresh statement to the tribunal – given just hours before she gave evidence – Ms Murray said the following about the Ms D allegation:
“It was at all relevant times something that was fairly well known in the world of Irish journalism.”
Asked about this, Ms Murray said:
“…the person actually, they didn’t go into a huge amount of detail about it, he just said that there was an allegation in the past about Maurice McCabe, there had been an allegation of sexual assault. But it didn’t go anywhere…”
Ms Murray said the exchange was a “very small interaction”.
“… my understanding was that this allegation was never proceeded with. I never really thought about it again, to be honest. And then when I heard that the Irish Independent had this rather massive exclusive, I thought that maybe there was something else to it. I thought that maybe there was another branch to it or maybe it had been reinvestigated or maybe it was a different allegation. I just didn’t know.”
Ms Murray said she obtained Ms D’s family name from a journalist but didn’t tell the tribunal their identity.
However, she confirmed it was neither Debbie McCann, of the Irish Mail on Sunday, or Michael O’Toole, of the Irish Daily Star.
Of this person, she later said:
“This person would have been very good to me, really. I would have trusted his sources, to be honest, Chairman.”
Before setting off for the D house, she obtained the family home’s landline phone number via Directory Enquiries and called the D home, from The Irish Sun‘s Dublin office, and spoke with Mr D.
Ms Murray said:
“I think he said that they had — I don’t know what the exact term was but that Paul Williams, I think, was their preferential choice… Paul Williams being their preferential choice, you know. Somewhat alarmed when I said I was from the Sun.”
Ms Murray said Mr D then called her back, within minutes, and, according to Ms Murray, he “wasn’t hostile to the notion” that she would call to the house.
“I mean, he knew, he knew, he knew that I was down there to try and find information.”
Ms Murray also said she didn’t know that Ms McCann, of the Irish Mail on Sunday, had been up to the house and she didn’t learn about this until Mrs D told her – on the day she visited.
Of the visit to the D house – during which Ms Murray only met Ms D’s – Ms Murray said:
“…it was unusual in the sense that I was there in the capacity as a journalist, Chairman, but it turned into really a conversation just between three people. As soon as I got to the house, I felt quite guilty, to be honest, because they seemed very weary. I wouldn’t go so — like, they were very, very, very nice, but they just seemed exhausted, and I can remember just feeling quite sorry for them.
“… And I don’t mean that in any kind of a slur on Mr McCabe at all. But I can remember feeling quite guilty. It turned into a conversation just between three individuals and they asked me about my experience as reporting on people that tend to go public with accusations – and, again, I would just like to say I do not in any way mean that as anything against Maurice McCabe – and I gave them a fairly honest answer about that, as much as I could in my experience.
“People that go public about these things, it can seem like a good decision when you’re very young, in your early 20s, but in ten years’ time it may not be such a good decision; like, if you are married and you have children of your own.”
She also said:
“I can remember being somewhat surprised at the minor nature of it [Ms D’s allegation], and the thought crossed my mind that maybe it was worse and she hadn’t been truthful with her parents about that, because I just couldn’t understand how anyone — you couldn’t publish something like that, you could never publish something like that.”
And she said:
“I hope I’m not upsetting anyone by saying this, but my abiding memory is of Mrs D, that she was a very, very nice lady, but she said to me they themselves struggle with the fact that it was such a minor incident had such a massive affect on, allegedly on their daughter, you know, and she asked a child counsellor about it at one stage, why — how can such a minor incident affect someone so much.”
Ms Murray said she has never met Ms D but she did add her on Facebook after she met with her parents. However she said she never actually contacted Ms D.
After her visit to the D house, Ms Murray said the Irish Sun had no interest in the Ms D story and that:
“It was very much a kind of wait and see what the Irish Independent does and we will follow on afterwards. So I told — I did, I told — I can remember saying, look, they’re nice people and everything, I said, but there’s absolutely nothing here that we could ever publish.”
Ms Murray said after her visit, she told Supt Taylor about calling to the D house.
She said, at the time, Supt Taylor was annoyed with the then Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar for stating at a Road Safety Authority event in Dublin Castle that Sgt McCabe and former Garda John Wilson were “distinguished”.
At the same event, Mr Varadkar called on Mr Callinan to withdraw the “disgusting” remark he made in relation to the garda whistleblowers at a meeting of the Public Accounts Committee in January 2014.
Mr Varadkar made his “distinguished” comment on March 20, 2014.
When asked about her exchange with Supt Taylor in relation to this, Ms Murray couldn’t explain how or why their conversation went from Mr Varadkar’s “distinguished” comment to her visit to the D house.
“I have taken advices and I don’t regard this as privileged. It would have been some time after I went up there, I did say to him that I had been up there, I said I’d interviewed that family. I said I thought that they were very nice, the parents, I said, but there’s just absolutely no way you could ever publish something like that. He wasn’t too bothered.”
“… he was somewhat annoyed about comments Leo Varadkar had made, where he had said that the whistleblowers were distinguished, and I said I met that family, I went up to Cavan and met that family, I said. I actually said, do you realise that that was such a very minor allegation?”
“…He wasn’t at all — he didn’t — he didn’t seem at all put out that I had no intention to publish.”
“And my recollection is, it was extremely brief and then he moved on to something else.”
Michael McDowell SC, for Sgt McCabe, asked Ms Murray what preceded this exchange with Supt Taylor and asked her why she was discussing the Ms D matter with Supt Taylor at all.
They had this exchange:
McDowell: “Can I ask you, what preceded that? I mean, why were you discussing the allegation at all with him?”
Murray: “He was somewhat exercised by comments made by Leo Varadkar.”
McDowell: “Just hold on a second. The former Commissioner had said that the actions of the whistleblowers were ‘disgusting’.”
McDowell: “And he’s told us that he meant the actions in disclosing information about third parties.”
McDowell: “Minister Varadkar says in public: I would use the term ‘distinguished’ rather than ‘disgusting’ –”
McDowell: “– referring to the penalty points matter, is that right?”
McDowell: “So would you now tell me how, in that context, the allegation of sexual abuse arose in conversation between yourself and Superintendent Taylor?”
Murray: “He was giving out about Leo Varadkar.”
McDowell: “Yeah. And he was criticising, used the word ‘distinguished’ –”
Murray: “He just thought he was causing trouble for Commissioner Callinan.”
McDowell: “Yes. And I’m suggesting to you that the missing link here is that he must have said something to you about the sexual assault because you said –”
Murray: “No, I said to him: You know that allegation, I actually interviewed those people, there was nothing in it.”
McDowell: “How was that relevant to whether he was ‘distinguished’ rather than ‘disgusting’?”
Murray: “I suppose it’s kind of –”
McDowell: “You know that allegation you put to him, isn’t that right? You just said now: I said to him, you know that allegation, I actually interviewed those people, there’s nothing in it.”
Murray: “I said it’s just not something we could ever –”
McDowell: “So you must have had some prior conversation about it?”
McDowell: “I’m just trying to put sense on it.”
McDowell: “He says, you know, that man Varadkar is completely –”
Murray: “Causing trouble, yeah.”
McDowell: “– goes on and saying that he is distinguished. How do you get from that to a discussion about Ms D’s allegation of sexual assault?”
Murray: “I said it to him. I said, I told him.”
McDowell: “You told him what?”
Murray: “That I had been up there to Cavan.”
McDowell: “To do what?”
Murray: “To interview –”
McDowell: “About what?”
Murray: “About this allegation. It was well-known –”
McDowell: “Were you telling him for the first time in all of your dealings that you had –”
Murray: “There hadn’t been a huge amount of dealings with him, though.”
McDowell: “No. But, I mean, the point is, that if you are saying this in response to his suggestion that the word ‘distinguished’ was inappropriate for Sergeant McCabe, it seems to me, and I’m just giving you an opportunity to deal with it, that you must have had a prior discussion –”
Murray: “I didn’t.”
McDowell: “– or must have brought up the subject with him of the sexual allegation?”
Murray: “I have no recollection of ever bringing that up with him, ever, or him bringing it up with me.”
Later, Ms Murray and Mr McDowell had this exchange:
McDowell: “…but if the conversation was running along that line and that ‘disgusting’ was the better word to apply to him, could that have been a trigger for you mentioning the sexual abuse allegation?”
Murray: “Yeah. Yes. Yes, sir. Yes, Chairman. I suppose so.”
The tribunal saw Ms Murray was in phone contact with Supt Taylor on the day of Paul Williams’ first article about Ms D in the Irish Independent on April 12, 2014.
As she had seen the article that day, Ms Murray was asked if this call with Supt Taylor involved a discussion about Mr Williams’ article.
Ms Murray said she didn’t recall it being discussed.
In relation to Mr Williams’ first article, in which Ms D was anonymised and Sgt McCabe, according to Michael McDowell SC, for Sgt McCabe, was “semi-anonymised”, Ms Murray said:
“Firstly, I wasn’t surprised when it didn’t go, when it didn’t run, and then when it finally did run I thought that was the only way they could have ever ran it.”
After Supt Taylor made a protected disclosure about the alleged smear campaign against Sgt McCabe in September 2016, Ms Murray said she didn’t know it was related to him initially but she thought it sounded like him.
She later got a text from an unnamed friend who told her it was him.
She said she then called Supt Taylor.
Ms Murray told the tribunal:
“I was just kind of like, why are you doing this to yourself, how could you drag yourself into another investigation, kind of, and he was very sort of, trying to get me off the phone as quick as possible.”
She said she was subsequently shocked to learn that she was named by Supt Taylor as someone who had been negatively briefed, by him, about Sgt McCabe.
And she said when she met Supt Taylor on February 14 or 15 of this year, he never told her that he had named her.
“Out of the blue, a few months ago, I got a text off his wife [Michelle Taylor] asking me for my address and she sent me a present for my baby, but it was unusual in that he was six months old at this stage, and obviously I was curious about the Tribunal, I was — I was sort of in naive hope that maybe I wouldn’t be called, Chairman, to be honest, I was hoping, and I hadn’t heard from you in a long time, so I just was hoping it was just a bad memory, and so I was in Dublin for that week, my mother was in hospital, I used the opportunity to meet with a few people, but one of them being Superintendent Taylor, because, to be honest, my motivation in doing so was to find out just information, you know, I wanted to find out did he name me.
“And he, even though he was sitting across from me in a coffee shop, did not admit that he had given my name to this Tribunal. And I had said — I recall saying, oh, I don’t think they’re going to come looking for me now, I said I think that maybe they don’t really want me, and he said, oh, well, they might, they might, you know. He did not, he didn’t — and do you know, I suppose, the bizarre part was, the letter from yourselves must have actually literally been in the post because I got it just a couple of days later.”
Asked about her concern that Supt Taylor was going to name her, or had named her, Ms Murray said:
“My fear was that he would use the fact that the Ds had named me to — named me and Debbie, that he would use that to bolster his own story. And I was correct.“
John Ferry BL, for Supt Taylor, put it to Ms Murray: “You were part of a smear campaign and you were being used as part of that when you were sent to Cavan?”
Ms Murray replied: “I was not.”
They then had this exchange:
Ferry: “You’ve already said you spoke to some person after coming to Dublin, you spoke to Fergus O’Shea, you’ve denied speaking to David Taylor, and you’re saying you didn’t speak to anybody else, so it appears you didn’t carry out any checks and balances?”
Murray: “That’s not true.”
Ferry: “And you headed straight to Cavan on what you said would be a casual run up to Cavan, a nice day out?”
Murray: “I think by going to visit them, the direct source is actually the best kind of checks and balances I could have carried out.”
Ferry: “And I put it to you that the only reason why you would head off on such a mission is that the dogs in the street were talking about the sergeant and you thought there was truth to this allegation that was in the ether about him?”
Murray: “I didn’t.”
Ferry: “And I put to you that the only way that you had a conversation with Superintendent Taylor in around the 20th March referring back to Ms D is because you’d had a previous conversation with him?”
Murray: “I didn’t.”
Ferry: “And finally, I put it to you that the only way that you could have uttered the words as a journalist there was nothing you could ever have published, is because you had been given a very sinister version by the first person you spoke to in Dublin about the story behind Sergeant McCabe?”
Murray: “Okay. We have to disagree.”
Tomorrow: Maurice McCabe And The Irish Daily Star
Previously: Maurice McCabe And The Irish Examiner: Part 2