Sunday 21 December 2014

Enda's revolution needs heads to roll

Published 16/03/2014 | 02:30

Gardai stressed that they are not treating as suspicious the deaths of the duo
Garda

The passing of Christine Buckley should serve to remind us that official Ireland rarely cherishes whistleblowers until they are deceased.

Sadly, the prologue and response to the Garda Inspectorate Report on penalty points suggest that, when it comes to those who persist in "disgusting" activities like speaking truth to power little has changed. Little also, alas, appears to have changed since 2005 when the Morris Report warned that An Garda Siochana was at risk of "losing its character as a disciplined force".

Instead, the politics of window dressing continued to thrive last week as a new but not at all different Government responded to the latest policing debacle with the increasingly usual mixture of clever equivocation and revisionist spin-doctoring.

It is too often said for too little reason that heads should roll in Irish politics. The scale of mismanagement of penalty points the Garda Inspectorate Report disclosed would, however, even make the HSE blanch.

One question Mr Callinan must answer with some urgency is that if one element of his force is so shambolic, how fares the rest? And if he cannot provide us with satisfactory responses, then he and his political master should go.

In truth, they should probably be gone already, for one of the defining features of a progressive society is a respect for whistleblowers. Instead, far too often in Irish public life, political cuteness is prioritised above acts of good authority.

In the case of Mr Shatter and Mr Callinan, this perceived tendency means that in the eyes of the public at least, they are rapidly turning into figures of no authority. Mr Shatter's belated recognition that garda whistleblower Maurice McCabe was right, but, only about some things, was as ungenerous as it was laced with political self-interest.

The nature of the activities whistleblowers unearth and the institutional hostility they experience, operating as they do behind enemy lines, means they do not enjoy the same liberties to seek counsels of perfection as ministers. Given that the terms of reference in the report ruled out any investigation into corruption far too slick a tongue was being used by those who noted no corruption had been uncovered.

The most dispiriting feature of the ongoing series of controversies involving Mr Shatter and Mr Callinan is the impact upon the Government's promise of a democratic revolution. This poor scarecrow has been even further damaged by the revelations about the ongoing health of a culture of self-entitlement, where Rehab mandarins pocket fees for lobbying while Rehab workers are axed.

The spectacle where philanthropy becomes linked to the interests of tax exiles and the personal enrichment for the well to do habitues of government corridors is equally unedifying. Intriguingly, whilst some class of political cat appears to have caught the Taoiseach's tongue on that particular matter.

Mr Kenny's response of a fusillade of inquiries into An Garda Siochana represents an equally inadequate response to the apparent determination of the minister and the commissioner, who enjoy such an entente cordiale, to hold their ground no matter what the Garda Inspectorate, Judge Cooke or the Guerin Inquiry might disclose. Exercises in accountability that are not accompanied by the sword of dismissal represent the politics of the fig-leaf.

The Taoiseach, if he is to retain the confidence of the electorate, must realise that unless heads roll much more freely in the wake of mandarin and political failures, Mr Kenny's much-touted democratic revolution will soon be dismissed as a busted flush.

Sunday Independent

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