Tag Archives: Journalists

Clockwise from top left: Niall O’Connor, Chris Donoghue, Paul Melia and Catherine O’Halloran




Via The Sunday Business Post

More than half a dozen journalists have been hired as special advisers by Fine Gael ministers since Leo Varadkar became Taoiseach just over 18 months ago.

The latest recruit was announced last week, with Irish Independent environment editor Paul Melia leaving his role to become policy adviser to Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy.

….Tánaiste Simon Coveney hired former Newstalk presenter and political correspondent Chris Donoghue as his media adviser in November 2017.

Defence minister Paul Kehoe hired Niall O’Connor, an ex-Independent News and Media political correspondent, as his media adviser at the start of last year, while Minister for Health Simon Harris recruited the former Irish Times political reporter Sarah Bardon as his media adviser last summer.

Three other journalists were recruited from the media world over the last year: former RTÉ broadcaster Caroline Murphy, who is media adviser to Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan; former Newstalk news editor John Kehoe, who advises Minister for Culture Josepha Madigan; and former Press Association reporter Ed Carty, who is media adviser to Minister for Education Joe McHugh.

In addition to Fine Gael, Independent Alliance ministers recruited former Daily Star political correspondent Catherine Halloran as deputy government press secretary in 2016, while Minister for Transport Shane Ross hired former Sunday Independent writer Carol Hunt as his media adviser.

Exodus of journalists to political roles raises concerns of brain drain from media industry (Sunday Business Post – behind paywall)

Clockwise from top left: Sgt Maurice McCabe and his wife Lorraine; Paul Reynolds, of RTÉ, journalist Colm Kenny; John Mooney, of The Sunday Times, Paul Williams, of the Irish Independent, Eavan Murray, of the Irish Sun, Alison O’Reilly, of the Irish Daily Mail, and Debbie McCann, of the Irish Mail on Sunday

This morning, from 10am.

Former Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan will resume giving evidence to the Disclosures Tribunal at Dublin Castle.

Ms O’Sullivan gave evidence yesterday and previously gave evidence earlier this year in respect of the O’Higgins Commission of Investigation.

The tribunal is examining allegations made by the former head of the Garda Press Office Supt Dave Taylor that, at some point in the middle of 2013, he was instructed by Ms O’Sullivan’s predecessor Martin Callinan to negatively brief journalists about Sgt Maurice McCabe.

At that time, Sgt McCabe and former Garda John Wilson were raising concerns about An Garda Síochána, including the quashing of penalty points.

In December 2012, People Before Profit TD Joan Collins named Irish Independent journalist Paul Williams as having had points quashed while, in April 2013, Gemma O’Doherty, in the Irish Independent, reported that points pertaining to the then Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan had been quashed.

[The tribunal has heard Sgt McCabe wasn’t the source of Ms O’Doherty’s story].

Supt Taylor alleges that, following this alleged instruction from Mr Callinan, he was to convey to journalists that Sgt McCabe was driven by maliciousness and motivated by revenge due to an allegation of sexual assault made against him in 2006.

This was the allegation made by a Ms D – the daughter of a former Garda colleague of Sgt McCabe who was sanctioned after Sgt McCabe made a complaint on foot of the colleague attending the scene of a suicide after drinking alcohol.

In April 2007, the DPP found Ms D’s allegation had no foundation.

Supt Taylor alleges that he was instructed to tell journalists about this allegation and to tell them that the DPP ruled against a prosecution, but that he was to convey that it was the “root cause” of Sgt McCabe’s complaints about malpractice within An Garda Siochana.

Supt Taylor also alleges that he was also to convey to journalists that Sgt McCabe didn’t cooperate with an internal Garda investigation called Operation Squeeze into the quashing of penalty points led by Assistant Commissioner John O’Mahony – which began in October 2012 and reported in May 2013.

In a protected disclosure submitted in September 2016, Supt Taylor alleges that Ms O’Sullivan was aware of these instructions from Mr Callinan.

He also alleges that the director of communications at An Garda Síochána Andrew McLindon was also aware.

Mr Callinan, Ms O’Sullivan and Mr McLindon categorically deny all the allegations.

The tribunal has heard it’s the position of An Garda Siochana that Supt Taylor told Mr Callinan that he was going to “bring down” Ms O’Sullivan – after he was moved out of the Garda Press Office and moved into Traffic in June 2014 – and that he made up the claim about Mr Callinan to give credence to the allegation.

It’s alleged Supt Taylor made this threat known to Mr Callinan after Supt Taylor had been arrested and suspended from duty in May 2015 – over allegations of leaking information to journalists while he was no longer in the Garda Press Office.

[The tribunal has heard that after an investigation which involved six interviews comprising of 18 hours of questioning – in which Supt Taylor continuously replied “no comment” – the DPP decided not to prosecute Supt Taylor on February 13, 2017, just days after Labour leader Brendan Howlin made claims about Ms O’Sullivan in the Dáil. But last week Supt Taylor conceded to the tribunal that he did make all of the communications he was accused of making to the journalists. The tribunal has heard Supt Taylor had around 11,000 communications with journalists between September 2014 and December 2014, after having been transferred out of the press office in June 2014. A comprehensive post on Supt Taylor’s evidence, Chief Supt Francis Clerkin’s investigation into Supt Taylor, Supt Taylor’s judicial review application to the High Court will follow]

Mr Callinan’s evidence is that he never told Ms O’Sullivan of this alleged threat made by Supt Taylor, while Supt Taylor denies making it.

In any event.

Separate to Supt Taylor’s allegations, Mr Callinan has been accused by five people – Fianna Fáil TD and then chairman of the Public Accounts Committee John McGuinness, Fine Gael TD and then a member of PAC John Deasy, the Comptroller and Auditor General Seamus McCarthy, RTE journalist Philip Boucher Hayes and solicitor Gerald Kean – that he negatively briefed them about Sgt McCabe during one-to-one conversations in December 2013/January 2014.

The allegations range from Mr Callinan saying Sgt McCabe was a troublemaker to he couldn’t be trusted to he had psychiatric problems to he was a person who “fiddles with kids”.

Mr McGuinness gave evidence to say that he was led to believe that a child sex assault investigation into Sgt McCabe was ongoing, while Mr McCarthy said he was told there were sexual offences (plural) against Sgt McCabe.

All of these briefings were to have taken placed in or around the Public Accounts Committee meeting on January 23, 2014, in which Mr Callinan, who was sitting next to Ms O’Sullivan, made his infamous “disgusting” remark.

Mr Callinan categorically denies the accounts of each of these five individuals.

The tribunal has heard that notes taken by various people present at several meetings held in Garda HQ in preparation of that PAC meeting show that Sgt McCabe, the Ms D allegation and “motivation” were discussed.

Yesterday, Ms O’Sullivan said she has no recollection of these matters being discussed in her presence, while Mr Callinan conceded that the notes suggest they were discussed but he can’t recall the matters being discussed either.

This is important, particularly in relation to Ms O’Sullivan, given she received a false rape referral against Sgt McCabe in May 2014 – which she also can’t recall reading – while Sgt McCabe and motivation was something that reared its head again a year later at the O’Higgins Commission of Investigation which ran from May 2015 until December 2015.

Sgt McCabe was only informed of this false rape referral in January 2016.

But going back to Supt Taylor’s protected disclosure…

In his protected disclosure, Supt Taylor only named one journalist – Paul Williams, of the Irish Independent – in respect of the Ms D allegation. However, he did also state he spoke to “various journalists”.

He also referred to RTE’s Paul Reynolds in respect of separate briefings on the day Mr Callinan stood down from his role as commissioner in March 2014.

The tribunal has already heard that three journalists called to the D family home in early 2014 – Debbie McCann, of the Irish Mail on Sunday; Eavan Murray, of The Irish Sun; and Mr Williams.

However, only Mr Williams wrote articles about Ms D in 2014.

In his protected disclosure, Supt Taylor alleged that he got a phone call from Mr Williams in which Mr Williams told him he was in Ms D’s house and he was going to interview her.

But, in his protected disclosure, Supt Taylor also said: “No article was ever published”.

However four articles written by Mr Williams were published about Ms D in the Irish Independent in April/May 2014. Supt Taylor said he never saw these articles.

Supt Taylor has told the tribunal that the purpose of Mr Williams’s phone call was for information purposes and that he passed on what Mr Williams told him to both Mr Callinan and Ms O’Sullivan.

Mr Williams, Mr Callinan and Ms O’Sullivan categorically reject this.

The tribunal yesterday saw that Ms O’Sullivan – who would have been Garda Commissioner at this point – texted Paul Williams at 7.11pm on April 12, 2014, the day Mr Williams’ first Ms D article was published in the Irish Independent. When asked if this text was about his Ms D article, Ms O’Sullivan said no.

Ms O’Sullivan also told the tribunal that she couldn’t recall talking to anybody about the article at that time.

The tribunal heard evidence from the D family and Mr Williams last summer in which they said Mr Williams came to the D family home on Saturday, March 8, 2014 and interviewed Ms D.

It followed a separate visit by Mr Williams a few days beforehand in which he just met Ms D’s parents, Mr and Mrs D.

On that Saturday, in which he interviewed Ms D, the tribunal heard, Mr Williams – with the help of videographer Caoimhe Gaskin – also videoed part of his interview with Ms D.

The tribunal hasn’t seen this video interview.

[More can be read about this here, while Mr Williams is scheduled to return to give further evidence next week]

After making his protected disclosure – in September 2016 – Supt Taylor gave the names of nine male journalists, whom he claims he negatively briefed about Sgt McCabe, to the tribunal.

They were Mr Williams; Paul Reynolds, of RTE; John Mooney, of The Sunday Times; Michael O’Toole, of the Irish Daily Star; Juno McEnroe, of the Irish Examiner; Cormac O’Keeffe, of the Irish Examiner; Daniel McConnell, of the Irish Examiner; Conor Lally, of The Irish Times and John Burke, of RTE.

Later still, after the D family gave evidence on Monday, July 17, 2017 – in relation to the Tusla module which looked at how the false rape referral came into existence and when Ms D, Mr D and Mrs D told the tribunal that Ms McCann, of the Irish Mail on Sunday and Ms Murray, of the Irish Sun, visited the house separately in February of 2014 – the tribunal’s investigators went back to Supt Taylor and he then added these two journalists to his list.

Continue reading →

Supreme Court judge Peter Charleton at the Disclosures Tribunal earlier this year

You may recall the Disclosures Tribunal.

It’s examining claims that a smear campaign was conducted against Sgt Maurice McCabe by former Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan – with the knowledge of Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan – as alleged by the former head of the Garda Press Office, Superintendent David Taylor. Both Mr Callinan and Ms O’Sullivan deny the allegations.

You may also recall how, in an effort to gather evidence, the tribunal has written letters to almost 30 journalists but “with a few exceptions” many of these letters have gone unanswered.

Further to this…

In an opinion column in yesterday’s Sunday Business Post, Colum Kenny writes:

“...it is disconcerting to see media organisations clustered together behind one legal team at the tribunal, as if all of their employees had covered the story in the same way, as if (for example) RTÉ television current affairs was the same as RTÉ news, or the Irish Independent the same as the Sunday Independent in practice.”

A combined legal tactic by media resisting the tribunal may also result in all media organisations being more restrained in their investigation and analysis of matters being considered by the Charleton Tribunal than they would be if they had no stake in the outcome.”

Media should identify gardaí as sources (Sunday Business Post)

Previously: Disclosures And Non-Disclosures


Inside the Dáil

John Drennan, in The Irish Sun, reports:

Leinster House is to crack down on journalists who it says portray TDs and their salaries in a negative light.

It is a move some might see as like President Donald Trump’s attacks on the US media’s “fake news”.

A private Houses of the Oireachtas Draft Communications Strategy Report plans to “robustly and promptly challenge inaccurate, misleading, unbalanced or misinformed media coverage of parliament”.

The draft strategy expresses particular concerns about the “less than benign view of the public on the salaries and allowable expenses of members, irrespective of any cuts”. And it believes the media are chiefly to blame.

…One source said: “I think you can translate that into meaning it will be putting manners on the media.”

‘Put manners on the media’: Leinster House to crack down on journalists who portray TDs and their salaries in a negative light (The Irish Sun)

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Sunday World crime correspondant Nicola Tallant, Anti-Austerity Alliance TD Paul Murphy, Fine Gael TD Fergus O’Dowd and John Devine, of Transparency International Ireland on TV3’s Tonight with Vincent Browne last night

Further to the recent reports that GSOC accessed the telephone records of three journalists without their knowledge or consent – and this morning’s reports that 62,000 applications for access to landline, mobile phone and internet records were made over five years, the majority by Gardaí…

Last night’s panel on the Tonight with Vincent Browne show, presented by Michael Clifford of the Irish Examiner, discussed the matter.

On the panel were Sunday World crime correspondant Nicola Tallant, Anti-Austerity Alliance TD Paul Murphy, Fine Gael TD Fergus O’Dowd and John Devine, of Transparency International Ireland.

They discussed last year’s RTE reports about how Paul Murphy was to be charged, the relationship between some gardaí and some members of the media and Nicola Tallant’s own complaint to GSOC about gardaí allegedly accessing her phone records.

Grab a tay.

Michael Clifford: “You work in the area of crime, what do you think of this story? How it’s being handled?”

Nicola Tallant: “Yeah, you just mentioned there that obviously the fight against crime, when you see it in the courts, obviously surveillance and phone records and all that are vital. I think before 2011, when the powers came to the gardaí, that they could, anyone over Superintendent level could sign off to get anybody’s phone records. It was actually dealt with…”

Clifford: “Chief superintendent, I think…”

Tallant: “Under the Terrorism Act. So that is how it has transferred now, it has gone from, it had been dealt with under the Terrorism Act when it didn’t exactly have to be an act of terrorism that you were investigating but it had to be pretty high up. It’s now transformed to if, it’s a culmination I think of this data protection plus the 2005 Garda Síochána Act which makes it illegal for a member of the guards to pass on leaked information that causes harm. You know, the information cannot just be, it’s not illegal for them just to…”

Clifford: “But any confidential information, and most of which guards would have, when you says causes harm, I don’t think there’s any provision that passing on information has to cause harm. How do you define harm?”

Tallant: “Well they do define the harm actually, in the act, and they define it, it is actually quite, there’s a list of things that are defined as harm and they include collapsing trials, that kind of…”

Clifford: “Reputation?”

Tallant: “There’s a few, you know, identifying a witness who has given information in confidentiality, they’re quite strict actually…”

Clifford: “Yeah.”

Tallant: “And I think it has probably been misused a little bit by guards as a bit of a fishing exercise to see who’s talking to the media.”

Clifford: “And is there not also a question, to be fair, that an awful lot of the information that flows from Garda sources to the media is tittle tattle, is invasive of people and, basically, in terms of any test in the public interest, it doesn’t pass it?”

Tallant: “Well some of it is and some of it is very relevant…”

Clifford: “Some of it is but a lot of it isn’t.”

Tallant: “Well, I mean, what, it depends on what you consider to be tittle tattle, what you consider to be in the public interest…”

Clifford: “I’ll give you an example – Paul Murphy beside you. Paul you’ve the issue whereby there was a leak to the media about the fact that you were going to face prosecution – and we’re not touching  the substance of the prosecution, but just in terms of how that came about. How did that come about?”

Paul Murphy: “Yes, the first I heard that myself and 20 something other people would be charged with false imprisonment and other charges related to the protests last year was on RTE Radio from Paul Reynolds, the crime correspondent. That was when we heard we were going to be charged, then nothing actually happened for weeks and weeks. And then the day before we actually were charged, as far as I remember, I got a call, again from Paul Reynolds,  at 5.55pm,  to say that he was going on Six One, headline news,  and to tell us that we were going to be charged.”

Clifford: “And it’s also, just to put a bit of context on it from recollection. Two days before that first, news report on RTE, I think there was a newspaper report suggesting that you wouldn’t be charged and one could surmise that somebody somewhere felt it might be necessary to get word out there to the contrary and suddenly, it appears in RTE.”

Murphy: “Correct, and that whole experience for me raised a significant question mark over the relationship between the gardaí, or some gardaí, and some journalists and the reality that some journalists act, in some way, as an extension of the Garda Press Office. They give a Garda line on certain stories in exchange for which they get information and I think that’s extremely damaging from the point of view of public debate, from the point of view of our reputation because I think there was a purpose for that being leaked which contradicts the previous story and also to soften opinion for what was a shocking event: the idea that people were being charged with false imprisonment…”

Clifford: “Well it’s conjecture whether that was, yeah, fair enough. John [Devine], what do you think of Paul’s assessment of that relationship?”

John Devine: “Yeah, we’ve pointed out in the wake of the Garda whistleblower controversy that there seems to be two cosy relationships between some journalists and the gardaí. And it’s not something that just affects media in Ireland. Elizabeth Filkin and Lord Leveson in the UK reported on the cosy relationship between the Metropolitan Police and the British press which were subject to investigation by Leveson and found that, in many cases, payments were being made to police officers for information, they were being wined and dined, they…”

Clifford: “I don’t think there’s any evidence whatsoever that that goes on in this jurisdiction..”

Devine: “I’m not, it’s not to say that there’s anything of, to that level, happening here but, at the same time, many of our journalists are dependent on the gardaí, for the information that feeds their stories. And Leveson and Filkin pointed out that this is an incentive for journalists to toe the line, to be uncritical, to not question police decisions and to turn a blind eye to abuses and, in some cases, by…”

Clifford: “What do you think of that Nicola?”

Tallant:There seems to be this kind of myth that is growing all the time, that crime correspondents are just fed a line from gardaí or they go down to headquarters and are given a story. My experience, and I’ve been at it 20 years or more, is that a guard wouldn’t know a story really if it hit them in the face. Now a journalist, a journalist knows a story, a journalist goes after a story and they have various sources of information. A lot of them get information on the ground on stories. People covering a daily beat. We have that body in the suitcase there this week that would be, the daily journalists are following that every day. They’re out on the crime scene.”

Devine: “We do know some crime journalists are favoured and this isn’t an Irish phenomenon, this is in the UK, it’s in the United States, there are some journalists who will have information that their colleagues will not have and that’s by virtue of the fact they’ve nurtured a relationship with their contacts in the police.”

Clifford: “And there is one other dynamic there, Nicola, in terms of GSOC and these phone records. GSOC have been at loggerheads with the gardaí on a number of occasions over the last few years and I think it would be fair to say that, in a number of incidences, reportage of that dispute was skewed very much in favour of the gardaí and against GSOC. And now we’ve a scenario where GSOC have apparently these untrammelled powers and they well be targeting the very journalists they might believe are targeting them, all of course, none of it intentional but I think it would be fair enough to surmise that there will be no love lost there, in those quarters.”

Tallant: “I actually think GSOC have done all of us a favour in journalism by the fact the very fact that they have focused this. They have gone in, they have been given these powers and they’ve gone into it like bulldozers and they have really made it very obvious what they were doing with the phone records. I’ve spoken to some of the journalists who are involved in it and it was just quite astounding how obvious they’ve made it. You see the guards have been doing this for years but they’ve been doing it much sneakier…”

Clifford: “Clare Daly made the point today and it was pretty valid. Us in the media, including myself we didn’t pay a hell of a lot of attention to it until the focus was turned on journalists.”

Tallant: “Well I paid attention to it because I made a complaint actually about my phone, about gardai accessing the records from my phone way back, from 2010, but I made the complaint to GSOC who were very positive about it in the beginning and came back to me just before Christmas to say there wasn’t anything that they could do, the guards couldn’t answer them…”

Related: No widespread snooping on private citizens (RTE)

Earlier: How Many?

Previously: “Come Back When You’re Sober”

Watch back in full here

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Office of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission on Abbey Street Upper, Dublin

Further to the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission accessing journalists’ phone records as part of investigations into alleged leaks to media, the Irish Council for Civil Liberties has created a ‘handy guide to phone number snooping powers’.

It explains…

Is GSOC allowed to gain access to this information under Irish law?

Yes. Both the Gardaí and investigators with GSOC can access phone records and other personal information, if it is needed to assist them with an investigation of a possible crime. In this instance, GSOC has the same powers to investigate the Gardaí as the Gardaí would have if they were investigating anyone else on suspicion of an offence.

How? In what circumstances?

The key here is that a Garda who leaks confidential information could be guilty of an offence. Under section 62 of the Garda Síochána Act 2005, it is an offence to disclose information received in the course of duties as a Garda if the Garda knows that the information is likely to have a “harmful effect”. This includes, for example, information that is published and relates to the victim of a crime or a witness to a criminal trial, or leads to a serious infringement of a person’s right to privacy (as well as other issues).

The same piece of 2005 legislation (section 98) gives members of GSOC the same powers as Gardaí if they are investigating a potential offence.

And, since 2011, Gardaí have the power to access phone records (Communications (Retention of Data) Act 2011).

It follows that, because GSOC investigators are looking at a potential offence – the leaking of confidential information – they also have the power to access personal records, including those of third parties like journalists.

Sounds a bit like Big Brother. Is there no protection for our right to privacy?

Yes there is, but it’s weak.

GSOC investigators would have to get sign off by one of the three members of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission. That’s all.

How about authorisation from an external body? I thought there was “judicial oversight”?

No, both the Gardaí and GSOC can obtain sign off for these powers without referring to any external body.

A judge does not need to give permission for these records to be obtained.

However, a judge reviews the access requests made by State agencies and gives a report to the Taoiseach, at least every year. The judge can also investigate cases.

Also, if you have reason to think that your data has been requested by the Gardaí, GSOC or other State body, you can make a complaint to the “Complaints Referee”.

Do GSOC and the Gardaí have other powers to gather private information?

Yes, since 1993, the Gardaí have had a lawful power to intercept telephone calls and, since 2009, to engage in hidden surveillance. In 2015, both of these powers were also extended to GSOC investigators.

Again, the privacy safeguards surrounding these activities by GSOC and the Gardaí are weak.

What about protection of journalists’ sources?

A journalist’s right to protect sources or, journalistic privilege, is a key pillar of the freedom of the press. This is protected under Article 10 (freedom of expression) of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and has been acknowledged formally as a constitutional principle by the Supreme Court in Mahon Tribunal v Keena and Kennedy. This does not mean that journalists can never be forced to reveal their sources, but any order to do so must be proportionate, and subject to strict oversight, for example by a judge.

What does the ICCL think should happen now?

We agree with the Minister for Justice and Equality that there needs to be a full review of all of these powers. That review must be independent, transparent and use human rights standards around data protection and privacy as key benchmarks. Particular attention should be paid to the case law of the European Court of Human Rights under Article 8 (right to privacy) of the European Convention of Human Rights, as well as relevant case law of the European Court of Justice. The recommendations must be published and acted upon promptly, with a clear implementation schedule.

ICCL release a “handy guide” to the “phone snooping” powers of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) and An Garda Síochána (ICCL)

Cabinet to discuss GSOC access of journalists’ phone records (RTE)

Previously: They Snoop To Conquer

Mark Stedman/Rollingnews.ie


The Guardian also understands that a number of Dublin-based journalists are going to allege that their phones have been routinely monitored by gardai.

Since the imposition of the 2005 Garda Siochana Act ,the force has been accused of scanning reporters’ calls to establish if they have been talking to individual gardai. The 2005 Act imposes heavy penalties on Garda officers who brief members of the media.

Ireland’s justice minister faces grilling over Garda bugging scandal (Henry, McDonald, The Guardian)

Thanks Brian Sammon

Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland

Journalists in Ireland have raised concerns about the country’s draconian gagging orders on police officers talking to the media, including allegations that the state is monitoring their mobile phone calls to try to reveal sources.

Dublin-based reporters, some of whom are under death threats from armed criminal gangs, have told MediaGuardian that the Irish police force, Garda Siochána, has questioned them about police contacts, threatened them with arrest and has been checking their mobile phone calls to suspected sources.


Irish journalists Accuse Police of ‘Stasi-like’ Monitoring (Henry McDonald, Guardian)