Wednesday 18 September 2019

Declan Power: 'Sorry saga left honourable man fighting for his reputation and liberty'


Stock photo
Stock photo

Declan Power

It might not be the end, or even the beginning of the end. But perhaps the news of Sergeant Maurice McCabe's recent settlement is the end of the beginning of a much-needed examination of the innards of the State.

And what a "beginning" the Sgt McCabe saga has been for the Irish State.

It opened a door to a view hitherto unseen by most ordinary members of society.

A view deep into the heart of the culture not just of our police force, but our body politic - and the sense of responsibility, or lack thereof, in elements of our public service.

I don't know which of the allegations against Sgt McCabe were the most disturbing, as there were a number of wretched ones to choose from.

But just when we were getting accustomed to the fact that there were serious issues in how our national police service was being managed, and how front-line supervisors like Sgt McCabe were at best left unsupported and at worst shafted by their own leadership, we were told of the additional disturbing facts of other agency involvement.

One must agree in this day and age - in fact in any day and age - most men would rather be accused of murder than the odious crime of child molestation.

However, not once was McCabe accused of this but twice and despite being considered to have no case to answer the first time, he was accused of the more heinous crime of child rape on the occasion of the second accusation.

It later came out in subsequent investigations this was not the result of some squalid little conspiracy between some members of An Garda Síochána and some members of the child protection service Tusla.

It was simple negligence and error.

Anyone can have a bad day and screw up management of multiple reports.

We've all messed up the odd bit of "cut and paste" when hurriedly preparing a report or two.

But when that report is about such a serious matter as child rape, one would think the agency in error would do more than make a few token attempts to rectify this error when that file gets sent to the main law enforcement agency of the land.

What is even more disturbing, however, is that the professionals at the centre of this omni-shambles seemed blissfully unaware these accusations concerned a man who was already at the centre of serious allegations and fighting for his professional life, integrity and in the worst case scenario, his liberty.

However, this incompetence and negligence by Tusla was to be raised to a new level of malignancy when the erroneous documents were to be used by elements in Garda Headquarters to attempt to smear Sgt McCabe into oblivion.

The Charleton Tribunal was to find former Supt Dave Taylor, previously of the Garda press office and acting on behalf of his former boss, then Garda commissioner Martin Callinan, to have been complicit in operating a "campaign of calumny" against Sgt McCabe.

This nexus of incompetence and malignancy was to have a toxic spillover not just on Sgt McCabe but other innocent parties.

These included former commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan, who was ultimately to be exonerated by Charleton of being involved in the aforementioned campaign against Sgt McCabe, but not before her career met a premature demise.

Among others, respected crime reporter Paul Reynolds was to be held up to the white light of scrutiny before being also exonerated.

So it is the beginning of an end of unquestioned trust in State institutions, institutions that need our trust and co-operation but must work harder to earn that trust.

We have seen the beginning of an end of era in Garda management with the welcome appointment of Commissioner Drew Harris as a statement of intent on new beginnings.

Irish Independent

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