Thursday 22 March 2018

Callinan stands over 'disgusting' comment as row turns bitter

Member of the Garda Inspectorate Robert K Olson. Inset: Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan. Photo: Collins
Member of the Garda Inspectorate Robert K Olson. Inset: Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan. Photo: Collins
Retired garda & whistleblower John Wilson. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins

Fionnan Sheahan, Philip Ryan and Niall O'Connor

The row between the garda chief and the garda whistleblowers became increasingly bitter in the wake of the latest damning penalty points report.

Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan is standing over his use of the term "disgusting" in relation to the leaking of details of the scrapping of penalty points.

A garda watchdog has found "inconsistent and widespread breaches" of the penalty points system by gardai.

The Garda Inspectorate also concluded that, without the public scrutiny, the deficiencies within the system "would not have been detected".

One of the whistleblowers has hit back – saying any other police commissioner would be forced to resign for branding members of his own force disgusting after they raised legitimate concerns about work practices.


Mr Callinan made the controversial "disgusting" comment at the Dail Public Accounts Committee in January and has faced calls to withdraw the comment and apologise to the garda whistleblowers.

However, Mr Callinan says he was not referring to the "character" of Sergeant Maurice McCabe and former garda John Wilson.

"I want to clarify that my use of that term was not in reference to the character of either Sgt McCabe or former Garda Wilson, but the manner in which personal and sensitive data was inappropriately appearing in the public domain without regard to due process and fair procedures.

"I stated at the PAC and reiterate now my absolute support and commitment to any member of An Garda Siochana who reports wrongdoing of any kind," he said.

Justice Minister Alan Shatter also failed to apologise to the whistleblowers.

"I am not interested in political point-scoring," he said.

But the minister acknowledged if the whistleblowers had not put the focus on the issue there would not be a report by the Garda Inspectorate.

"In some of the issues they raised, they have been proved to be right. In other issues, they haven't been proved to be right," he said.

Mr Shatter and the Garda Commissioner both welcomed the publication of the Garda Inspectorate report on the penalty points affair.

Mr Wilson said he was forced to approach members of the Oireachtas with his allegation after he failed to get an adequate response through any other channels.

He added: "I was there when he made the disgusting remark. He was fully aware that I was there and those comments were not an accident – he knew what he was saying.

"Any other police commissioner who called members of his police services disgusting for reporting alleged wrongdoing in the organisation would have been dismissed within 24 hours."

Mr Wilson insisted he and Sgt McCabe had now been "totally vindicated" by the Garda Inspectorate's findings and the previous Comptroller and Auditor General report.

"It is a damning indictment of senior members of An Garda Siochana that all cancellations are now centralised," he said.

"There were thousands of tickets terminated each year and these practices have now stopped. If Maurice McCabe and myself had not reported this alleged malpractices these terminations would still be carried out.


Mr Wilson said he was "disappointed but not surprised" that he had not received an apology from Mr Shatter.

A source close to Sgt McCabe said he believed that he followed proper protocol when he contacted Taoiseach Enda Kenny and a number of public bodies with his concerns before he spoke to Independent TDs.

"The commissioner said the comment wasn't about Sgt McCabe and Wilson but about what they did.

"Well, Sgt McCabe went to Enda Kenny with his allegations first, so does the commissioner call that disgusting?" the source said.

The source also said Sgt McCabe felt he was now vindicated by the findings of the report.

"The report is identical to what Sgt McCabe pointed out.

"It shows widespread abuse and it shows repeat terminations

"And the Garda Inspectorate said only that the matter became public it would not be detected," the source added.

Meanwhile, speaking on RTE's Morning Ireland today the head of the Inspectorate Robert Olson commended Sgt McCabe.

He said: "He provided us with a lot of information regarding the fixed charge processing system."

Mr Olson said all of the information he provided was "clearly credible".

Irish Independent

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