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Friday 17 November 2017

Things fall apart, the centre cannot hold...

O'Sullivan does not have the trust of the public, writes John McGuinness

Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan Photo: Arthur Carron
Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan Photo: Arthur Carron

John McGuinness

The centre isn't holding, and our people no longer believe that politicians will keep them safe. In fact, the centre is far too full of organisations who have forgotten that they are there to serve our people, rather than protect themselves, and perhaps the Dail is one of them.

For a number of years I have been close to Maurice McCabe, which gave me the opportunity to see at first hand how far a state institution would go to protect the status quo and how membership of the collective deprives people of their objectivity and judgment.

The price of being one of the herd is you lose your individuality and, sometimes, your moral compass because you are marching to the sound of drummers and the orders of leaders who have convinced one another that their beat is best.

Last week Prime Time brutally exposed what group thinking and blind loyalty can do. It can take an organisation full of well meaning, committed people over a cliff.

Senior members of the Garda, once the most respected body of men and women in the State - the organisation that, above all others, is there to keep us safe - stands accused of using the most extraordinary underhand and sordid tactics to destroy a good man, steal years of his life and subject him and his family to terrible pressure and stress. And in so doing, tarnish the badge of the force and the honour of the thousands of good people, like Maurice McCabe, who did, and do, their work proudly and well.

Without a shadow of a doubt, Commissioner O'Sullivan should, without prejudice, step aside. Without a shadow of a doubt, Superintendent Dave Taylor should be reinstated and paid in full.

Both are entitled to the presumption of innocence. But the buck stops at the Commissioner's desk and she is of the old guard. She should now stand back for her own good and for the good of the State. She does not enjoy the support of the public and it is imperative that trust in An Garda Siochana be restored.

Tusla too has serious questions to answer. We are being asked to believe that a "fat-fingered moment" was behind the extraordinary accusations laid at Maurice McCabe's door. It may be true, but it is not credible - never has "a fat finger" been ignored for so long. Indeed, one has to ask questions about what happened to the person whose file the accusations should have been on.

Read More: Timeline: How the Maurice McCabe scandal unfolded...

And even if it is true, how can accusations like these be laid against anyone without them being subject to the most rigorous examination? That "fat finger" laid waste to the life of an innocent family. How many other innocent families are suffering the same fate?

Apologies are not enough. I know there are other innocent people out there who have felt the heavy hand of a Tusla investigation. It should now be the subject of a criminal investigation, and, separately, its procedures should be scrutinised. Children's welfare must be paramount, but the reputations of individuals, and the children in their families, deserve protection also.

This is a tipping point. Have no doubt about it. The public has had enough of mismanagement in various State organisations.

This is the point where politicians have to accept many State organisations have lost their way and heading for implosions. The HSE, which casually provided incorrect waiting lists to government, is a good example of that. No matter how many billions it gets and no matter how hard front line staff work it will never deliver.

The Dail should stop hiding behind rhetoric and meaningless gestures. We are watching the death throes of old bureaucratic institutions, here and elsewhere, and dollops of money will not produce miracles. But determination, common sense and the embracing of new ideas, cutting edge human resources and management practices might, if trade unions, politicians and senior public servants embrace change and address the challenge.

A State that refuse to change and properly address waste, while chiselling money from its people at every turn and by every means, creates anger, disappointment, and disillusionment. I think we all know now where that can take us!

John McGuinness is a Fianna Fail TD representing Carlow-Kilkenny and former PAC chair

Sunday Independent

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