Alleged targeting of informant makes mockery of the new Garda policy
Published 06/10/2016 | 02:30
It may only have been published a few months ago, but An Garda Síochána's long-awaited protected disclosures policy is already being reviewed by the Policing Authority.
Just as Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald did with the O'Higgins Report, she has referred the whistleblower policy to the oversight body.
Its chairperson, Josephine Feehily, says a review of the policy will be completed shortly. But it is already clear from allegations aired in recent days that its efficacy is in question.
The very people supposed to be promoting the policy are alleged to be undermining it.
Two senior gardaí have claimed in protected disclosures to Ms Fitzgerald that a smear campaign was sanctioned by Garda leadership to assassinate the character of a whistleblower within the force.
It is claimed this campaign involved the spreading of false, scandalous and damaging allegations against the whistleblower.
One of the two officers who came forward is said to have admitted his role in the campaign, but claims he was acting under orders.
Garda Commissioner Noírín O'Sullivan has insisted she was not privy to and did not approve of any action designed to target any Garda employee.
Of course, this sort of thing wasn't supposed to be possible any more.
The alleged actions are prohibited by the Protected Disclosures Act 2014, which protects whistleblowers from being dismissed, penalised or from suffering detriment.
On the back of the act, Garda management developed a dedicated policy, which was published during the summer. The document, sent to all members of the force, states a Garda employee who makes a disclosure and has a reasonable belief of wrongdoing will not be penalised, even if the concerns turn out to be unfounded.
Penalisation includes suspension, dismissal, disciplinary action, demotion, discrimination, threats or other unfavourable treatment. Workers who retaliate against those who have raised concerns under this policy will be subject of disciplinary action.
A chief superintendent in the human resources division has been appointed as a protected disclosure manager to receive complaints.
There are procedures for the appointment of a nominated chief superintendent or civil service principal officer to examine the disclosure and make recommendations to the commissioner, who can then appoint someone to investigate the complaint.
Throughout the process, the whistleblower is supposed to be briefed.
The policy allows a whistleblower to go to GSOC, the Justice Minister or a legal adviser should they have reservations about approaching the protected disclosure manager.
However, the alleged actions disclosed this week, if true, demonstrate that you can introduce all the new legislation and policies you like, but little will change unless the culture of an organisation is radically tackled too.