Wednesday 17 January 2018

Shatter and Callinan are vindicated - but it's too late

Former Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan (PA)
Former Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan (PA)

Paul Williams

The O'Higgins report is akin to one of those budgets where no-one is entirely dissatisfied or aggrieved - in other words, there is something here for all the protagonists.

The O'Higgins Commission was established after Garda whistleblower Maurice McCabe, who has been praised for his courage and genuine motives, compiled a dossier of concerns he had over the management of An Garda Síochána in the Cavan/Monaghan Division.

Deeply frustrated that his concerns were not being adequately addressed, McCabe levelled a series of allegations of corruption and wrongdoing on a scale not seen since the Donegal scandal in the 1990s.

The report finds him to be a committed member of An Garda Síochána who acted out of "genuine and legitimate concerns" and had shown "courage" in performing a public service.

According to the Commission, McCabe was "never less than truthful" although he was prone to exaggeration on occasion.

His complaints concerning serious flaws and failings in eight specific criminal investigations, including the case of Jerry McGrath who murdered Sylvia Roche-Kelly in Limerick, were upheld.

The investigation identified serious deficiencies in the management of the garda district where inexperienced officers were left to investigate crimes without adequate supervision.

However, much of the failings occurred at "a human level...caused by poorly supervised individuals".

At the same time the Commission has dismissed his allegations of corruption and found several of his accusations to have been "exaggerated" and "unfounded".

It is now emerging that the main target of McCabe's frustration was his then superintendent in Bailieboro, Michael Clancy.

McCabe's grievance was allowed to fester so long that it eventually erupted into political chaos, destroying the careers of former justice minister Alan Shatter and former commissioner Martin Callinan.

The fact that Shatter and Callinan have both been completely vindicated is of little recompense. Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald pointedly refused to apologise to either men on behalf of the Taoiseach or the Government yesterday by dodging the issue with glib remarks about "accepting" the conclusions of the report.

This illustrates a callous disregard for the people unfairly devastated by this whole sorry saga.

A lot of people, among them Kenny and Fitzgerald, effectively benefited from sacrificing one of the most progressive justice ministers for many years.

The fall-out from this report has left Enda Kenny on very shaky ground.

If any serious effort is to be made to acknowledge the wrong done to Shatter, Callinan and all the gardaí who have also lived under the cloud of unfounded corruption allegations, then the Taoiseach should do the honourable thing and resign.

Irish Independent

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