Friday 22 September 2017

McCabe yet to receive any message of support from Garda chiefs

Whistleblower Garda Sgt Maurice McCabe. Picture: Tom Burke
Whistleblower Garda Sgt Maurice McCabe. Picture: Tom Burke
Maeve Sheehan

Maeve Sheehan

HE has been hailed a hero by politicians and the public – but Maurice McCabe has yet to receive a single personal message of support from his superiors in An Garda Siochana.

Friends of the sergeant say he hasn't received a "single phone call" from the garda commissioner, senior officer or even from his representative body, the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI), since his claims of malpractice in the force were vindicated in a government-commissioned report.

While the acting garda commissioner, Noirin O'Sullivan, and the AGSI have publicly expressed support for whistleblowers and for Sergeant McCabe, they have not conveyed that personally to him.

"He has even had meetings with senior officers in his own division and the Guerin report hasn't been brought up at all," the source told the Sunday Independent.

"It is the elephant in the room." The source added that he still felt isolated.

News of his continued isolation comes amid overwhelming public support for the garda whistleblowers. Today's Sunday Independent/Millward Brown poll found that 87 per cent of people polled believe there should be more protection for whistleblowers.

The damning report by barrister Sean Guerin into how Sgt McCabe's complaints were handled triggered the resignation of the Minister for Justice, Alan Shatter.

The report was significantly critical of garda management's treatment of his concerns, and the inadequate response within the Department of Justice.

One of the issues the report highlighted was the need to protect whistleblowers.

Mr Guerin said "the personal and professional consequences" for Sgt McCabe of making his complaints were a cause for concern. Although outside of his remit, he said that Sgt McCabe's experience demanded "examination".

A Commission of Inquiry is now being set up to investigate his concerns. The Taoiseach last week offered Sgt McCabe a fulsome apology and his access to the Pulse system – which was curtailed 18 months ago – was also restored.

The sergeant is suing the Garda Siochana and the State over his experiences.

In the course of highlighting his concerns, he was harassed and threats were made to his family.

More recently, Mr Shatter, the then Justice Minister, was publicly sceptical about his allegations and wrongly accused Sgt McCabe of not co-operating with the garda's own internal inquiry into abuses of the penalty points system, one of the issues he had highlighted.

The previous garda commissioner, Martin Callinan, described the whistleblowers' actions as "disgusting".

Since then, there has been a marked change in the public expressions of support for the whistleblowers.

John Redmond, president of the AGSI – of which Sgt McCabe is a member – has described him and his fellow whistleblower, John Wilson, now retired, as "brave", "committed" and "strong".

The representative body has also called for more robust protection of whistleblowers. It also wants the garda confidential reporting charter reviewed.

Similarly, the acting garda commissioner, Noirin O'Sullivan, gave a groundbreaking address to garda recruits in Templemore, offering an olive branch to whistleblowers.

Ms O'Sullivan also distanced herself from her predecessor Martin Callinan's use of the word "disgusting" to describe them.

The Government is currently pushing through new legislation which will give more protection to whistleblowers.

The Protected Disclosures Bill 2013, is making its way through the Oireachtas, and though it did not initially cover the gardai, it has been amended so that it includes members of the force.

Sunday Independent

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News