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Tuesday 30 May 2017

Gardai 'whistleblower' office being almost entirely ignored

It is believed no new whistleblowers have come forward since Superintendent's arrest

Sources say few members of the force are convinced by the Commissioner’s public
statements that whistleblowers will be treated fairly and sympathetically (Stock picture)
Sources say few members of the force are convinced by the Commissioner’s public statements that whistleblowers will be treated fairly and sympathetically (Stock picture)
Jim Cusack

Jim Cusack

The Garda's internal "whistleblower" scheme has been almost totally ignored by members of the force, the Sunday Independent can reveal.

The only official estimate, given last year by Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan, is that "fewer than 10" gardai have come forward since the force's Protected Disclosures Manager office was set up a year ago.

This "fewer than 10" figure is understood to include those already in the public domain.

Sources say few members of the force are convinced by the Commissioner's public statements that whistleblowers will be treated fairly and sympathetically.

Few gardai have even bothered to make inquiries about the Protected Disclosures Manager's office, believed to be located in the Garda Commissioner's office in Phoenix Park.

It is understood a garda chief superintendent has 'responsibility' for the office which was set up in the immediate aftermath of Judge O'Higgins's inquiry into the events Maurice McCabe flagged up at Baillieboro Garda Station and its surrounding controversy.

Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan gave the "fewer than 10" figure at a public meeting of the Policing Authority after the O'Higgins report.

No further gardai appear to have been prepared to speak about corruption or mismanagement in the 12,000-strong force.

At the Policing Authority public meeting the Commissioner gave assurances that she and her managers were fully supportive of whistleblowers and even welcomed the idea.

When pressed on what was being done to encourage whistleblowers (under the 2014 Protected Disclosures Act, a piece of legislation that took 14 years in gestation) the commissioner told the authority that a new internal system for dealing with whistleblowers was in place.

When pressed later by the head of the authority, Ms Josephine Feehily, at the June public meeting, the Commissioner admitted that despite the supposed arrangements of encouraging and protecting whistleblowers "less than 10" had come forward but she did not give an exact figure.

It also emerged that an email to all gardai and civilian staff about the establishment of the Protected Disclosures Manager had gone out only on the morning of the public meeting with the authority.

But gardai say the idea of becoming a whistleblower became anathema in the aftermath of the May 2015 order by Commissioner O'Sullivan to arrest the former head of the Garda press office, Superintendent David Taylor for alleged 'unlawful disclosure' of information.

He was arrested, stripped of his superintendent epaulettes and shoes and held in a cell in Balbriggan Garda Station for 22 hours in May 2014.

The Commissioner appointed her husband, Jim McGowan, still then a superintendent, to oversee the 'investigation' which has, nearly three years on, produced no evidence against Superintendent Taylor who remains suspended from duty on reduced pay.

When asked by the Sunday Independent if there was any 'conflict of interest' issue over her husband's involvement, Commissioner O'Sullivan, at a press conference in 2015, said she saw none. She also said she had not instructed any senior gardai not to communicate with journalists.

A team of up to 18 gardai including the Commissioner's husband were involved in the initial investigation into David Taylor and this number had increased, it is understood, to around 30 gardai.

Sunday Independent

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