Clare Daly arrest leaks: The calls, texts and tweets behind the controversy

Watchdog probe found details of 2013 arrest were most likely leaked by gardaí

Clare Daly. Image: RollingNews.ie

Photo: Clare Daly | RollingNews.ie

Garda leaks have come under scrutiny again this week after a report into the handling of a TD’s arrest found that details of the incident were likely passed on to the media in an “unauthorised manner” .

A probe by Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) published yesterday concluded it was “probable” that information about Clare Daly's 2013 arrest had been leaked from within the force.

But the garda watchdog said it had insufficient evidence to warrant sending a file to the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Ms Daly was arrested on suspicion of drink-driving after making an illegal turn on Dublin’s South Circular Road in the early hours of January 29th that year. 

She was brought to Kilmainham garda station, where she was found to be under the legal limit, and released less than an hour later.

The alleged leaking of details about her arrest became the subject of investigation after the independent TD complained to GSOC.

She called for an apology from the garda commissioner last night, saying her right to privacy had been infringed.

So what do we know about the handling of the case now, over three years later?

The press queries

Ms Daly said that she first became aware that the media knew about her arrest when she was contacted by RTÉ journalists after 4pm that afternoon.

She said one of the reporters told her they planned to cover the story and that the Irish Daily Star had been aware of it “since 11am”.

Only three people outside the Garda Síochána - a solicitor, Mick Wallace TD and a friend she asked gardaí to contact - knew about her arrest at this point.

Ms Daly gave an interview to RTÉ for the Six One News that night and then issued a press release about her arrest.

The first media query to gardaí came from an Irish Daily Star journalist, who rang at 2.45pm and again at 3.15pm.

The sergeant that was on duty in the force’s press office that afternoon said he remembered the reporter giving a wrong location for the arrest during his first call.

He was able to supply the correct location, matching the Pulse record, when he rang a second time.

GSOC concluded that the reporter "may have" confirmed further details with a third party in between the two calls.

The civilian administrator

Separately, GSOC was able to trace a seven-minute call made at 10.56am that day from a garda extension to an Irish Daily Star landline number.

The extension was assigned to a civilian administrator based in a small one-person office, which was “generally unlocked”.

The administrator denied passing on any information to the media and said they had no knowledge of the arrest until the evening news.

The person told GSOC that they used to have a part-time position at the paper and were friends with a person who still worked there, who was not a journalist.

The Irish Daily Star employee confirmed they knew the administrator for a number of years and that they spoke “a couple of times a week”.

A second call was made later that day, at 3.33pm, from a landline in the public office of a garda station to an Irish Daily Star journalist’s mobile number.

GSOC said 145 people would have had knowledge of the arrest either from checking the Pulse system or receiving an email about the incident.

But a number of others would likely have been told about the contents of the record by colleagues, it said.

As a result, GSOC concluded that it was “not possible” to identify the specific person who leaked the information.

The three people who knew about the arrest before it appeared on the news - including Ms Daly’s solicitor and Deputy Mick Wallace - denied speaking to a journalist.

GSOC said there was “no reason to believe” that any of them would have been in contact with a reporter.

Mick Wallace

Ms Daly also alleged that a leak resulted in members of the media learning that she had asked to inform Mick Wallace TD of her arrest.

An Irish Daily Mail journalist who covered the story said a source had confirmed the TD called her colleague on arriving at Kilmainham garda station.

The reporter in question had texted her at 6.22pm on the day of her arrest to ask that she ring him about the “hot whiskey episode”.

She later received a missed call and second text asking her to get in touch.

In a third text at 9.42pm, the journalist asked her: “Understand you rang Mick Wallace TD on your allowed phone call by gardaí. Why was that?”

Photo: Mick Wallace|RollingNews.ie

Mr Wallace told GSOC that the same reporter send him two texts that day.

The first, received at 7.45pm, asked: “Sympathy for Clare?”

The second, at 9.43pm, said: “Understand Clare Daly rang you Mick on her allowed phone call by gardaí. Why was that? Did you collect her?”

The only written record of Mr Wallace’s involvement in the incident is in an email that was sent by a sergeant at Kilmainham to the Kevin Street district office at  12:43pm.

GSOC said only those who had read or been told about the email, or received information from gardaí at Kilmainham, would have known about Ms Daly’s call.

The garda detective

But its inquiry also found that the Irish Daily Mail journalist had been in contact with a garda detective’s personal mobile number.

GSOC then discovered that a Twitter account associated with the detective had been used to send abusive message to Ms Daly in the hours and days after her arrest.

The Twitter user was identified by a post that linked to a fitness website on which the detective’s full name and date of birth were listed.

The first tweet from the account to @ClareDalyTD, sent less than an hour after news of the arrest broke, read: “Are you DRIVING to the meeting ???”  

A second tweet sent that night said: “@ClareDalyTD How big was the hot whiskey ? Boiling a bottle of Jameson & swallowing it doesn't count as 1.”

Another tweet sent the following day stated: “@ClareDalyTD Hilarious – a media hungry attention seeking savage complaining about information being given to the media, hilarious.”

A fourth message on February 7th read: “@ClareDalyTD Probably a bit too late night or in the night to expect certain TDs to be sober at this late hour.”

The garda detective admitted under questioning that he was the account holder but said he had no knowledge of the arrest until it was highlighted by the media.

He denied passing on any information to the Irish Daily Mail journalist and said he could not remember sending those specific tweets to Ms Daly.

His solicitor later told GSOC that he was “no longer in possession” of the phone used on January 29th and so could not pass it on to investigators, as had been requested.

The probe against him was later dropped for lack of evidence.