Senior garda faces probe over water protest 'leaks'

A senior garda is facing investigation over the leaking of information to RTÉ following an incident in which Joan Burton was blockaded by water protesters.

Labour’s Joan Burton was left stranded in her car by protest. Photo: Frank McGrath

Labour’s Joan Burton was left stranded in her car by protest. Photo: Frank McGrath

An internal Garda investigation was launched after RTÉ broadcast details of charges against 20 people arising from the incident outside a community centre in Tallaght in November 2014.

During the protest the then Labour leader had to sit in her official car for two hours as it was surrounded by protesters.

The news report by RTÉ crime correspondent Paul Reynolds led to a complaint by Socialist TD Paul Murphy to the gardaí, the Garda Ombudsman and the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).

In a news report on August 12 last year, Mr Reynolds gave details of expected arrests and court appearances.

The report contained information about the total number of arrests due, the number and type of files sent by the Garda to the DPP, and that the accused were due to appear in court in the coming days. The report also contained information that the DPP had recommended charges in files returned to the garda investigators. The cases are before the courts.

Mr Murphy later said the information could only have come from the DPP or gardaí and he had "written to the appropriate authorities in both seeking to establish what investigations will be carried out to determine the source of the leak".

Two senior officers from outside Dublin were given the task of heading the investigation of Deputy Murphy's complaint.

The investigation into the RTÉ report involved the checking of mobile phone records from, and to, the journalist.

The garda press office said: "An investigation into how this information appeared in the media was launched on the Thursday 13th August, 2015. This investigation is ongoing." RTÉ said it did not wish to comment on an "ongoing garda investigation'"

It is one of a series being carried out by gardaí into alleged leaks. In May last year Superintendent Dave Taylor, the former head of the Garda Press Office under the previous Commissioner Martin Callinan, was arrested and suspended from duty on severely reduced salary.

A file was prepared for the DPP arising out of the investigation into Supt Taylor which was headed by Superintendent Jim McGowan, Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan's husband. Ms O'Sullivan has stated she saw no conflict of interest in this.

It is understood that the file prepared by Supt McGowan's team and sent to the DPP alleging "unlawful" disclosure of information to journalists has been returned to the Garda after the DPP decided there was no evidence on which to base any charge.

The piece of legislation under which Supt Taylor was arrested and detained for several hours n is Section 62 of the 2005 Garda Síochána Act. The legislation provides for up to seven years imprisonment and or a €75,000 fine for 'unlawful disclosure' of information.

It had only been used in one previous case against a garda who exposed an attempt by former Green Party TD Trevor Sargent over his intervention in a prosecution in his north Dublin constituency. Mr Sargent subsequently resigned in February 2010. A garda was arrested, questioned and a file sent to the DPP who directed no charges be brought.

Original article; Jim Cusack, Irish Independent, June 15, 2016