From top: Terry Prone, Frances Fitzgerald and Norin O’Sullivan
Last Friday journalist Ken Foxe revealed that the Office of the Information Commissioner had discovered 68 records of correspondence between former Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald and PR advisor Terry Prone, of the Communications Clinic between May 8, 2014 and March 11, 2017.
These were records which the Department of Justice previously said never existed.
The OIC made the discovery after Mr Foxe appealed the department’s claim that there were no such records in existence.
As a consequence of the OIC’s examination, the OIC Peter Tyndall quashed the department’s decision to refuse to release the correspondence and requested that the department ask Ms Fitzgerald to check her personal email accounts for any other records.
The Department of Justice has since told Mr Foxe it is considering Mr Tyndall’s decision.
From 2014 to 2017, Ms Prone wasn’t only advising Ms Fitzgerald. She was also advising the then Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan.
As Ms Fitzgerald was the Justice Minister at the time, Ms O’Sullivan was, on paper, answerable to Ms Fitzgerald.
The Disclosures Tribunal saw how statements or draft speeches were written with the help of Ms Prone by Ms O’Sullivan for Ms Fitzgerald concerning issues about Ms O’Sullivan.
Mr Justice Peter Charleton described this sequence of events worthy of Myles na Gopaleen’s satire.
Although Ms Prone was not called as a witness, she featured at the tribunal in emails and texts recovered from a phone and iPad belonging to Ms O’Sullivan.
Ms Prone was referred to when the tribunal examined the fall-out of reports about the O’Higgins Commission of Investigation in May 2016.
On Friday, May 13, 2016, Michael Clifford, of the Irish Examiner, reported on events which occurred at the privately held O’Higgins Commission of Investigation which took place in 2015 – but which weren’t detailed in the commission’s final report.
Ms Prone was directly involved in dealing with the fall-out of these reports.
The tribunal heard, on Sunday, May 15, 2016, Ms Prone penned and sent a response to Ms O’Sullivan for Fianna Fáil leader Mícheál Martin after Mr Martin asked Ms O’Sullivan to clarify points made at the commission.
Mr Martin was described as a “close confidante” of Ms Prone’s.
On Tuesday, May 17, 2016, there was to be a Dáil debate on the O’Higgins matter but after midday – several hours before the Dáil heard Ms Fitzgerald speak about the O’Higgins Commission at Leaders’ Questions – the then Head of Communications at the Department of Justice Patrick Forsyth sent a note on the commission, which had been prepared for Ms Fitzgerald, to Ms O’Sullivan.
It should be said Ms O’Sullivan used her private gmail account for most of the correspondence detailed at the tribunal.
Ms O’Sullivan told the tribunal it “wouldn’t be unusual” for departmental officials to email her in relation to what the Minister for Justice and Tánaiste [Ms Fitzgerald] was going to say.
The tribunal heard, on the same afternoon, Mr O’Leary also emailed Ms O’Sullivan the legal advice which Ms Fitzgerald received in relation to what she could say during Leaders’ Questions.
On the evening of May 17, 2016, Ms Fitzgerald went on Prime Time and didn’t categorically express confidence in Ms O’Sullivan.
On Wednesday, May 18, 2016, Ms O’Sullivan then sent Ms Fitzgerald an email with the following opening line:
“Minister I understand that you may have to make a statement this morning and I enclose a draft for your consideration.”
It was put to Ms O’Sullivan by Kathleen Leader BL, for the tribunal, that this was a draft speech, in the first person, but Ms O’Sullivan said it wasn’t. She said it was a statement, adding “it’s just facts”.
The draft/statement/speech began with the following line:
“I have interrogated this matter in detail with the Commissioner of An Garda Síochána and I now present to the House the outcome.”
It then continued:
“First of all, at no point did the Commissioner instruct the legal team representing An Garda Síochána at the O’Higgins Commission to accuse Sergeant McCabe of malice. This is important because it was asserted in a headline in The Irish Examiner last week and has become a widely accepted truth since.
“It is not the truth and the word malice was not authorised by Nóirín O’Sullivan. The Commissioner had an absolute duty to vindicate the rights of Gardaí accused of corruption. Her legal advice was that the allegations of corruption made by Sergeant Maurice McCabe against senior members of An Garda Síochána must be tested by appropriate cross-examination.
“As can be seen from the report, those allegations were either withdrawn under questioning or adjudicated in the final report to be unfounded.
“Two points must strongly be made in relation to this: A. At no stage did the Commission instruct the legal team to suggest any question of bad faith or that Sergeant McCabe’s integrity was in question. B. The Commissioner would have no control over the conduct of legal argument within the Commission. The report of the Commission was published and Sergeant McCabe judged to have honourable intentions.
“The illegal publication of evidence presented to the Commission reopened issues the Commission had set to rest. More importantly, it robbed the Commissioner of the right to defend her good name, precluded as she was from commenting on the investigation before the Commission under the provisions of section 11 of the Commission of Investigation Act 2004. She was further advised against sharing details of the confidential briefing of the legal team. I wish to state here and now that I have full confidence in the Commissioner.”
Ms Leader had the following exchange with Ms O’Sullivan:
Leader: “I would say, just having gone through the whole of that email, that you were drafting a speech for the Minister, concluding in a statement that she had full confidence in you, immediately after a Prime Time programme had caused you some concern because she didn’t state that she had confidence in you, albeit she was pressed on the matter?”
O’Sullivan: “Yes, Chairman, and this was — it was not a draft statement for the Minister, it was setting out material, factual material that the Minister could choose to use or not, which actually put to right the inaccurate reportage that had been going on all weekend…”
On May 19, 2016, Ms O’Sullivan met with Ms Fitzgerald. Others in attendance included Ken O’Leary, General Secretary at the Department of Justice Noel Waters and Assistant Commissioner John Twomey.
Ms O’Sullivan told the tribunal that she believes, at this meeting, it was decided that a report would be drawn up for Ms Fitzgerald.
On May 20, 2016, the Director of Communications at An Garda Siochana Andrew McLindon brought a number of media inquiries to Ms O’Sullivan’s attention.
On May 21, 2016, the Deputy Secretary at the Department of Justice Ken O’Leary emailed Ms O’Sullivan a draft letter which she was to eventually send to Ms Fitzgerald – outlining what had happened at the O’Higgins Commission of Investigation and what her instructions were to her legal team at the commission, as per what had been discussed at the meeting May 19.
Ms O’Sullivan told the tribunal that she would have had several meetings with Mr O’Leary about this letter but that she didn’t think any of these meetings with Mr O’Leary were either minuted or put in a diary.
Ms Leader BL, for the tribunal, pointed out to Ms O’Sullivan that, in all the paperwork which the tribunal had seen, it would appear that this initial letter from Mr O’Leary was the first draft of this letter.
Mr O’Leary then sent Ms O’Sullivan a second draft on May 22, 2016.
After discussing this second draft, Ms O’Sullivan had this exchange with Ms Leader:
Leader: “…was it suggested that one of her own departmental officials would be drafting that report for her on your — ”
O’Sullivan: “No, Chairman. What was suggested was there would be a letter compiled for the Minister to be as fulsome as possible with the constraints that we were operating under, to give her as much information, factual information, as she could possibly have.”
On May 23, 2016, Mr O’Leary sends Ms O’Sullivan another draft.
Later, that same day, Mr O’Leary sent another draft. This email contained the note: “I promise this is the last version I will send you which reflects some comments I have received.”
Other emails, the tribunal heard showed the draft going from Ms O’Sullivan to her private secretary Marie Broderick and the Deputy Commissioner John Twomey.
Another showed the draft being sent from Ms O’Sullivan to Mr Twomey containing comments Ms O’Sullivan received from Ms Prone.
And then, on May 24, 2016, Ms O’Sullivan sends the draft, referred to as “Last Chance Saloon” again to Mr Twomey.
Another email showed Mr Twomey sending it to Mr O’Leary with the comment “Draft attached. Still a work in progress”, while another showed Ms Broderick sending another draft to Mr Twomey.
The draft was then sent from Mr Twomey to Mr O’Leary with the comment “Can you let us know what you think missing?” with Mr Twomey later sending it again to Mr O’Leary, copying in Ms O’Sullivan and Donal O Cualain, with the message “Hopefully nearing the last.”
There were then further exchanges between Mr Twomey and Mr O’Leary – with Ms O’Sullivan and Mr O Cualain copied into the emails – before, eventually, Mr Twomey sends the final draft to Ms Prone for her comments.
And then the next day, Mr Twomey emails the final draft to Ms Broderick with the message: “Marie, Draft statement for Commissioner attached. John Twomey”
The letter was sent to Ms Fitzgerald on May 25, 2016 (It can be read here from page 82)
Ms O’Sullivan said she saw the letter as one of the most important letters of her career and she used it as a template for her second public statement on the matter on the same day, May 25, 2016.
When Mr O’Leary gave evidence to the tribunal, he said: “I think there is about 15 drafts in total, that they go back and forth to Garda Headquarters and then they come back and I think that Terry Prone had some input as well…”
It was put to Mr O’Leary that some people might think the exchanges of drafts may indicate An Garda Síochána and the Department of Justice were working “hand in glove” at the time.
Mr O’Leary said: “And so it was, for the very good reason that we had to take a public interest view in relation to all these matters and our view was that the public interest was not going to be served in any way by the Commissioner’s position being put in jeopardy at that time.”
The whole exercise prompted Judge Peter Charleton to have the following exchange with Noel Waters, the former General Secretary of the Department of Justice:
Charleton: “…at first blush, the Garda Commissioner writing her views to the Department, which have already been written by the Department, would seem to be a somewhat empty exercise.”
Waters: “It wouldn’t be unusual that, in the exchange of correspondence where drafts might be exchanged between the parties and there would be agreement as to what might or might not be included in them and that then they would form the — ultimately form the correspondence –”
Charleton: “Well, the problem, Mr. Waters, is, I mean, if the person who is having a dialogue with somebody else is telling the person who is having a dialogue with them what to say, how can you possibly know what that person’s views or how genuine they are?”
Waters: “But, of course, it was always open to the Commissioner to send something else.”
Charleton: “No, I appreciate that. I don’t know if anyone reads Myles na gCopaleen anymore, it used to be very popular, but I am thinking one of the passages in that is a series of letters which were published in book form as between a young lady and a young gentleman as their relationship improves and then gets worse and eventually ends with one that is called the stinging riposte, so what they actually do is write to each other out of this book, which was apparently a quite widely publicised book at the time.
“But the comment made is, and it seems to be one that I can’t escape at least asking a question about is, if you are taking something out of precedence, namely a book, how is it genuine, how is it your thoughts? If the Garda Commissioner is writing to the Department of Justice what the Department of Justice wants to have written to it, what in heaven’s name does that mean in terms of any genuine progress in terms of attitude?”
Waters: “I’m not certain that I would agree that it was a case of what the Department of Justice wants to have written to it. Again, as I say, it was a matter for the Commissioner in the finish if she disagreed with the contents of the letter and wished to frame it in another way. I think ultimately that was the case.”
Charleton: “Well, if you want to know what somebody thinks, what you normally do is, you say, ‘what do you think?’, as opposed to ‘here is what you think’.”
Last year, the Journal reported that An Garda Siochana first engaged the Communications Clinic in September 2014 “on an ad hoc basis” and for training of the then new Garda press officer – after the former head of the Garda Press Office Supt Dave Taylor was moved from the press office to Traffic in Dublin Castle in the summer of 2014.
The Journal reported, based on documents released to it under FOI, that the Communications Clinic was “engaged by the gardaí in September 2015 to aid in the force’s media relations”.
As mentioned above, Ms Prone was advising Ms O’Sullivan much earlier.
Ms Prone was advising Ms O’Sullivan within days of Ms O’Sullivan’s predecessor Martin Callinan stepping down on March 25, 2014.
Shortly after taking over as Acting Garda Commissioner, Ms O’Sullivan received advice from Ms Prone on a speech she wished to give.
In the following emails, Ms O’Sullivan used her Gmail account.
Ms Prone sent her a draft on March 30 at 6.55pm, with the note:
Noirin. When you read this first draft, it’ll surprise you, because it has inclusive language (“”Our Force””/””we””) and it has informal contractions (“”wouldn’t””) in order to get it as close as possible to what you might say to them if they were in front of you. It also cuts the first person pronoun out wherever possible – I was very struck by your comment about “”us the good Guards.”” They shouldn’t get the sense of an ivory tower big ego. Addressing them as colleagues may be wrong. Fight with it. Tess
At 8.57pm, Ms O’Sullivan replied to Ms Prone:
My initial thoughts, pardon the initial brain dump, the construct and the English!!
At this point don’t specifically mention collation exercise, or Maurice McCabe issue (so as not to make big issue).
– thought – as you are aware a number of inquiries/commissions are underway, which I intend to fully co-operate with in an open and transparent way. At the same time my dual objective is to service these inquiries and focus on our core business of policing and security. (Not word specific). Our objectives of keeping people safe, working with our communities etc etc. policing and security really important.
General thoughts. (No particular order)
Shouldn’t see things as criticisms, rather as opportunity for room to improve, renew and grow and review how we work, our systems and processes.
Any organisation as large and complex as Ags, it is important that senior management/we listen to the perspective of those working on the frontline.
Whistle blowers?? Can play an important function bringing our attention to inaction, inappropriate action and gaps in our systems and I/we recognise the value of that..
We must develop strong working relationships with oversight bodies and key stakeholders, e.g. Road safety authority, focusing on improving road safety and improving quality of life.
It is my objective at this time to maintain the focus of Ags on its important policing and security functions, working with our communities to ensure people are safe.
Shouldn’t take things as criticisms rather opportunity to improve what we are already really good at doing.
Seek their commitment – to improve the image of the organisation/service, live up to our values and change our behaviours to openly demonstrate the professionalism, dedication and commitment of individuals and re-establish/maintain public confidence and pride we and the people of Ireland have in our/their organisation/service.
We need to be open to improving our image.
When we joined an Garda Siochana, we joined with an enthusiasm and wanting to make a difference.
Intend to meet with as many people as possible, should I include senior management team??
Force or service /organisation???
We are really good at what we do, I.e, policing need to improve strengthen governane/accountability/ managerial practice – need to be careful about how we say this at this time.
Focus on what we are good at
– keeping communities safe
Working with people
Rebuilding/strengthening confidence and support
Ask for help/ commitment.
On March 31, 2014, at 11.20am, Ms Prone emailed:
Noirin, all this is splendid stuff. D’you want your guy to tidy it into an email able message? Or me? Tess
On March 31, 2014, at 6.51pm, Ms O’Sullivan emailed:
Hi terry if you could do it that would be great. n
On April 1, 2014, at 4.48pm, Ms Prone emailed:
Oh, Jesus, Noirin, I’ve only seen this at 5 pm today – I am so, so sorry. Did you need this for today’s meeting? If it’s still relevant, please say so and I will have it for you at dawn, lightly spotted with tears of shame. Tess
On April 2, 2014, at 12.03pm, Ms O’Sullivan emailed:
I am only seeing your reply now, no worries and no didn’t need for yesterday’s meeting xx The meeting was with the top leadership team, from assistant commissioners, chief superintendents , superintendents and their civilian equivalents. I got the message across that this was a first step on a journey we needed to take together. As the top leadership team we needed to take control, identify the issues we needed to deal with, prioritise them and action them. The objective being to strengthen governance, and demonstrate transparency and more openness.
Also a completely different level if engagement with internal and external stakeholders, more collaborative. At the same time holding people responsible and accountable for delivering on objectives.
I firmly believe we need to learn the lessons of the past, not just acknowledge them, but action them. Engage our critical friends, not always agree with them, but listen to what they say. I also believe that in any walk of life and in particular in any organisation as large, complex and dispersed as AGS we need to encourage people inside and out to Bring to our attention issues that they believe are wrong, that we need to address or areas in which we can improve. Perhaps they won’t always be right, but we must reassure them that we have heard what they have said and we are reviewing, re-assessing or whatever. I actually don’t like the term whistleblowers and think the recent controversies have done an injustice to whistleblowers and may even have made people afraid of coming forward because they don’t want to be labelled in that way.
I also want to get the balance between putting the last in the past, learning the lessons and building on the strengths of the organisation. We need to restore public confidence and re- establish trust by engaging with the communities we serve in different ways. Yesterday I asked the leadership team to get out and about, talk to their people, talk to the public, get visible and get visibility on what needs to be done. We need to get a mechanism/process in place to capture and manage these.
We need to prioritise the issues we need to deal with, but the issues we currently know, e.g. Tapes etc we need to draw a line in the sand and for me the mortal sin will be if something continues or happens that we should have put right. For me this is steadying the ship. The balance then is that we focus on our core policing and security functions, we cannot take our eye off the security situation, organised crime, community policing, roads policing etc. we must work in collaboration with others to achieve our objectives.
Our strength lies in our esprit de corps, our focus on getting the job done, serving the community making a difference. The vast majority of people joined Ags to do exactly that. We do have some people who do not live up to expected behaviours and standards and they absolutely need to be dealt with. I don’t believe it us right that we investigate ourselves, I believe it is appropriate that GSOC investigate them. But we need to find a mechanism to alleviate the pressure on our superintendents.
Our weaknesses, really in the main are organisational failings. We need to strengthen governance and accountability, we need to re-engineer our processes, we need to develop our enablers and we need a cohesive and coherent governance and accountability framework. Some of this will require investment, some us smarter, sharper house-keeping practices. We need to review our administrative work practices, we have been servicing an archaic monolith fir a long period of time, we now need to make it dynamic and fit for purpose for a 21st century police service.
I firmly believe we need to establish our credentials as professionals, that means we need demonstrable accountability, we need to re-establish our legitimacy by engendering trust and confidence through our actions. We need to walk the walk. This can be a really exciting journey!!
We need to value our people more, e.g. Occupational health, support systems, demonstrably fair people management policies and practices, e.g. Transfers. We need to develop talent man agent and development practices. We need to achieve true integration with our civilian cohort. We need to develop blended teams with multi-disciplinary skill sets.
We need to make sure our people do not become disaffected. Given the strains and financial pressures that so e people are under, we need to ensure they do not become vulnerable to corruption. Therefore we need proactive controls and safeguards in place around property management, asset management.
We need to create a proactive risk management framework, prioritising issues and dealing with them, ensuring appropriate safeguards and controls are in place.
We need to engage our critical friends, e.g, GSOC, inspectorate, migrant council, civil liberties, social commentators, critics, listen to them hear them, be prepared to discuss, debate and articulate our position. We also need to collaborate more, persuade and influence key stakeholders, departments, gov, academia, industry and business.
We need a robust system of information management, be prepared for foi, data protection etc that’s coming down the road. Bearing in mind they will be new to the organisation.
I do not underestimate the job of work we have to do, I also understand this is going to be a cultural change for people within the organisation. I know we may not get everybody on board and I believe people will have to make personal decisions along the way. I know I need help, I know I need to create a coalition of the willing.
I feel we have great opportunities with the review being conducted under Haddington road and the introduction and consideration of a policing board. We are up for all this. Meanwhile we need to stop the politicisation of policing and focus on our core business I.e policing and security, keeping people safe.
Generally this is the type of discussion and messages I gave at the meeting yesterday. As the leadership team WE had to deliver on this. I told them I deliberately didn’t send out internal message until I met and heard them. I toms them I had a deliberate reason for not going public, as I believed we needed to devise a deliberate media/conns strategy around what we need to do.
So after all that, I gave a commitment yesterday to send out an internal message to all members both Garda and civilian and also to do an external/public message, create a public image of An Garda Siochana and further develop my own public image. We also need to create a re-branding, marketing and communication strategy.
In the short term we need to do the messaging piece The general feedback was that we need to be seen to take control and get out the message that we know there are problems, we will identify them, fix them. We will engage in a different way without own people and the public. I asked for their commitment to come on this journey and to trust me that we will have a plan. I told them it would be dynamic and would happen in the short term rather than medium to long term some eyes went to heaven!!!! Only the old traditionalist nay sayer.
Generally feedback was positive, but now I have to deliver and know I have a hell if a lot of work to do.
So what do I need,
Internal message ( May need to get out today/tomorrow) reassuring each and every one that I am at the helm, in control and working our way through this. At the same time we need to focus on getting the job done, working with communities, roads policing etc etc. External/public message/statement may be couched in meeting yesterday or not, maybe my comment about meeting yesterday. Think I would like to send out immediately after internal message and also speak about internal message, but essentially will be one and the same thing just possibly phrased differently.
First public engagement Friday. Need to establish myself as in charge. Two separate things needed for this -(1) speech 10/15 minutes-reserve graduates and their families (minister may be present and a number of other dignitaries. Same theme as message, but welcoming and thanking, proud organisation etc.
(2) piece to media. My feeling at this time and as discussed on sunday this may be only 3/4/5 mins. Holding position as such. This may change if Minister decides to come.
As a by the way I am meeting the staff associations on Thursday afternoon, I anticipate they may use it to do a pr piece for themselves with the media. I intend to keep to the general themes of the message and listen to their views. This will be my first time meeting them.
God, have I given you enough to do. I had started this rant before I got your text about speech, so will read that now and get back to you. I am writing from the lobby of black rock clinic waiting for Jim, so hence the head space and brain dump. Sorry that you’re the recipient, but love your views, thoughts and ideas.
Thank you so much xxxxx
My first public engagement will be on Friday at the reserve graduation in the Garda College. I now have to craft the
Later, on May 14, 2014, just before 6am, Ms Prone emailed both Ms O’Sullivan, to her Gmail account, and Ms Fitzgerald an article by Arthur Beesley in The Irish Times.
On June 20, 2014, just after 6am, Ms Prone emailed both Ms O’Sullivan and Ms Fitzgerald the back page of the Irish Examiner.
Ms Prone, or employees of the Communications Clinic, continued to send Ms O’Sullivan press clippings/articles over the following months.
On the morning of October 5, 2016, just after Supt Dave Taylor and Sgt Maurice McCabe made protected disclosures, Independents 4 Change TD Clare Daly was speaking on RTE’s Morning Ireland.
Ms O’Sullivan was listening and the tribunal was shown a text sent from Ms Prone to Ms O’Sullivan about the matter, as well as a series of texts between Ms O’Sullivan and Assistant Commissioner Mick O’Sullivan about the same.
It’s understood the “Andrew” referred to is the Director of Communications at An Garda Siochana Andrew McLindon.
There was this text from Ms Prone (Tess) to Ms O’Sullivan at 7.54am.
In this text, Ms Prone says “Talked Herself”. It’s not clear who she is referring to.
Ms O’Sullivan and Mr Sullivan had the following exchange around the same time, during which Ms O’Sullivan forwards to Mr O’Sullivan what she received from Ms Prone and also refers to “Herself”. In this context, it would seem they are referring to Ms Prone as “Herself”.
On October 10, 2016, while Ms O’Sullivan was in the US, Ms Prone and Ms O’Sullivan had a text exchange in which Ms O’Sullivan, in a seemingly reply to Ms Prone, told her when she moved Supt Taylor out of the Garda Press Office.
In the same text, Ms O’Sullivan refers to “interesting tweets from Michael O’Toole” of the Irish Daily Star about a smear campaign against her and Ms Prone later asks if “whistle blowing is gonna surface?”:
On October 12, 2016, Ms O’Sullivan appeared before the Oireachtas Justice and Equality committee.
On the day before Ms Prone wrote an email to Ms O’Sullivan with the subject line “bad management”.
In the email Ms Prone appeared to tell Ms O’Sullivan off for not accepting a speech Ms Prone prepared for her and instead getting ready to use a different speech.
Ms Prone told Ms O’Sullivan “tear it up and go back to my version”.
Later that evening on October 11, 2016, Deputy Secretary at the Department of Justice Ken O’Leary wrote an email to Ms O’Sullivan to say “good luck” with an attached list of soundbites which Ms O’Sullivan could use at the committee meeting if she was asked to step aside from her position.
I’m not sure there’s anything inspirational in any of this. It’s a pity I didn’t record myself talking earlier! I’ll have a quick look at the papers in the morning and get in touch if anything strikes me. Feel free to ring me at any hour in the morning.
By the way the Tánaiste is on Morning Ireland and Newstalk in the morning but I think it’s meant to be about the budget mainly.
At 6.42am on the morning of the committee meeting on October 12, 2016, Mr O’Leary again texted Ms O’Sullivan to say good luck and advised her to be “sweetly reasonable and boring”.
Mr O’Leary wrote:
“Good luck today. Sweetly reasonable and boring would be good. If asked about specifics re McCabe etc you could say while you haven’t seen recent disclosures you’re aware of media reports in relation to what they are said to contain. You have to be conscious of a Judge has been appointed now to examine the disclosures and further inquires might follow. Some of those reports also have referred to an ongoing criminal investigation which obviously you cannot talk about. In the circumstances you do not feel you can go beyond what you have already said publicly about this matter. What is important now is that these matters are fully examined and you don’t want to prejudice that examination in any way.”
Fast forward to February 2017 and, on February 8, 2017, Labour leader Brendan Howlin told the Dáil:
“This morning a journalist contacted me and told me they had direct knowledge of calls made by the Garda Commissioner to journalists during 2013 and 2014 in the course of which the Commissioner made very serious allegations of sexual crimes having been committed by Sergeant Maurice McCabe.”
Mr Howlin was referring to journalist Alison O’Reilly, of the Irish Mail on Sunday – based on what she claims she was told by the newspaper’s crime correspondent Debbie McCann. [This is currently being examined by Judge Peter Charleton at the Disclosures Tribunal. Ms McCann and Ms O’Sullivan claim the assertion is untrue].
On that afternoon, Ms Prone emailed Ms O’Sullivan and told her “your legal eagles need to get their skates on”. She wrote:
Several days later, on February 11, 2017, Ms Prone sent a disparaging text seemingly about Fianna Fáil TD John McGuinness – who has been very supportive of Sgt McCabe – to Ms O’Sullivan, saying:
Not all of the above texts and emails were read out during the Disclosures Tribunal but they were contained in reports by Elaine Strachan and Mark McConnell, of Forensic Science Northern Ireland, who gave evidence after they examined the phones, laptops, iPads recovered by the tribunal.
Mr Justice Charleton told the tribunal:
“It might be useful to say at this point that all of the reports of Ms Strachan and Mr McConnell are now in evidence, not just the bits we have gone through, the whole lot are in evidence.”
Friday: Clinical Exposure
Previously: Terry Prone on Broadsheet