Wednesday 26 October 2016

Whistleblowers show great courage at great cost to themselves

Published 23/05/2016 | 02:30

In 2014, Leo Varadkar gave his backing to garda whistleblowers Photo: Damien Eagers
In 2014, Leo Varadkar gave his backing to garda whistleblowers Photo: Damien Eagers

The majority of gardaí do a great job. They can find their lives in danger and have lost brave colleagues. Like all organisations, it has good standards, but a few of these may slip and some of its members sometimes feel the need to speak out.

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In terms of transparency, it would have been better if the frame of reference of the commission of inquiry had allowed Mr Justice Kevin O'Higgins to include how counsel for the Garda Commissioner said he was under instruction to strongly question the integrity, motivation and credibility of Garda Sgt Maurice McCabe on his allegations of malpractice by members of the force.

Counsel for the commissioner later said he misinterpreted the instructions and integrity was not included.

At some point in the inquiry, an attempt was made to tarnish the garda's character with an allegation over what he said at a meeting to two senior garda officers in 2008 - an allegation which was withdrawn at the inquiry, when a private tape recording Sgt McCabe made of that meeting was given by him to the inquiry, and which was transcribed. It showed he did not say what was alleged.

This was not in the report. The O'Higgins report found Sgt McCabe acted out of genuine and legitimate concerns.

The Garda Commissioner is at the moment under a cloud, fairly or unfairly, over this case.

The role of the media was crucial in instigating government action.

The first minister in the last government to publicly support garda whistleblowers like Sgt McCabe was then Fine Gael Minister for Health, Leo Varadkar, who said the issues needed to be looked at.

Wolfe Tone once spoke of a new Ireland for Protestants, Catholics and dissenters.

John F Kennedy said in January 1961: "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country."

Some may mock these words, but this is what whistleblowers try to do. JFK's book 'Profiles in Courage' was based on past American politicians who spoke out at great cost to themselves. The battle to do the right thing goes on.

Mary Sullivan, Cork

We are still better off in the EU

Concetto La Malfa complains about the EU being "bureaucratic", "capitalistic", "geared to those countries who are financially more comfortable" and a place in which "people count for very little" (Irish Independent, Letters, May 21). If 28 democracies sign a treaty to cooperate in matters of mutual interest, someone has to take on the bureaucratic task of coordinating the rules - hence the European Commission.

If the Soviet Union - in which both political and economic power were vested in a small number of people at the head of government - had succeeded, we would not have free market capitalism.

But the Soviet Union collapsed and we are stuck with capitalism with all its faults and failings.

Despite all states operating under the same treaty and the same free market rules, there is a reason why some countries of the EU are in a better position financially than others.

The reason is that the most powerful citizens at the head of government, financial institutions etc in the financially more successful countries did not make reckless decisions which bankrupted their nations.

Thus powerful decision-makers in financially more successful countries, by not making reckless decisions, put the interests of all the people ahead of the interests of the few.

The EU is a human institution and not without its faults but we, as its ordinary citizens, are much better off than those in most of the rest of the world.

We should, therefore, be very careful to ensure that all these advantages do not "perish", as Concetto La Malfa predicts.

A Leavy, Sutton, Dublin 13

Refugee crisis the issue of our times

The world humanitarian summit which begins in Istanbul today will be no more than a fig leaf, at which to express good intentions. Isn't it perplexing that there are 11 major civil wars in the world today, in comparison with only four in 2007? It is disheartening that the world is still crippled by war, racism, segregation and discrimination, and shackled by occupations, oppression, repression and the systematic impoverishment of entire generations.

It is unbelievable that the fresh memories of the unspeakable crimes of Nazism towards Jews, the crimes perpetrated against innocent Muslims in Bosnia and the Rawandan genocide, to name only a few tragedies, do not help us to reflect, exercise vigilance and stop the unparalleled human tragedies occurring in the Middle East, the Horn of Africa and South East Asia.

Millions of people are being displaced, women are raped and enslaved, innocent victims are slaughtered and burnt alive, minors are sexually abused and cultural, educational and religious treasures are plundered and destroyed.

Moreover, millions of refugees are still languishing in overcrowded, unsanitary camps, ravaged by diseases and blighted by the scourge of ignorance, destitution, molestation and despair.

Most importantly, this refugee crisis is bound to explode further, widening the social, economic and religious schism between communities, if countries like Jordan are not supported enough to shoulder the burden of refugees.

In fact, this summit should have been held in Jordan, a small barren country with little natural resources, hosting millions of refugees from Iraq, Libya, Syria, Albania, Chechnya, Bosnia, Yemen and Palestine.

The international community cannot afford to overlook the urgency of the moment.

As Martin Luther King so eloquently put it: "This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquillising drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy.

"Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice.

"Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children."

Dr Munjed Farid Al Qutob, London, United Kingdom

Shameful neglect of the arts

Last week, junior ministries increased from 15 to 18, yet 'culture' - Aodhán Ó Ríordáin's former position - was removed entirely. 'Arts' appear nowhere.

Whilst it is fantastic to see a great focus of junior ministries in important areas such as health, it does not have to be an 'either/or' situation.

For a country that prides itself on culture, this is a truly disappointing and regressive step.

Gavin Brennan, Clontarf, Dublin 3

Irish Independent

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