Silence, rumours, backlash - the background to a controversy long in the making
The treatment of garda whistleblowers continues to dominate headlines this week as new claims drag the former head of the force back into the spotlight.
Ex-garda commissioner Martin Callinan has so far been silent about allegations he sought to discredit whistleblower Maurice McCabe in January 2014, just days before the sergeant appeared before an Oireachtas committee.
The former chair of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), John McGuinness, claimed in the Dáil last week that Callinan told him McCabe was “not to be trusted” and that there were “serious issues about him”.
The pair met secretly in the car park of Bewley’s Hotel on the Naas Road in Dublin, on Callinan’s request, according to McGuinness.
The Fianna Fáil TD has since been criticised for failing to tell the O’Higgins commission about the meeting, which he insists falls outside its terms of reference, and waiting so long to publicly discuss the matter.
After being urged to comment on the encounter, Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan said yesterday that she was “not aware of any private meeting” between the two men.
Only tuning into the story now? Let’s turn the clock back a few years.
December 7th, 2012: The then garda commissioner, Martin Callinan, disputes allegations that gardaí improperly cancelled thousands of penalty points.
Days earlier, United Left Alliance TDs had used parliamentary privilege to name well-known individuals they believed had points inappropriately wiped.
Callinan says it is “very unfair” to suggest any wrongdoing without sufficient evidence.
The garda chief sets up an internal probe that subsequently dismisses whistleblower claims of criminality and corruption in the handling of fixed notice charges.
October 1st, 2013: A report by the Comptroller and Auditor General supports the allegations of the two whistleblowers, Sergeant Maurice McCabe and the now retired John Wilson.
The then justice minister, Alan Shatter, claims in the Dáil that the pair did not cooperate with garda investigations into their concerns - a remark he later withdraws.
January 23rd, 2014: In evidence to the PAC, Callinan uses the word “disgusting” to describe the actions of the penalty points whistleblowers.
“We have two people out of a force of over 13,000 who are making extraordinary, serious allegations,” he says.
“There is not a whisper anywhere else, from any other member of the Garda Síochána about this corruption, this malpractice and all of those things that are levelled against their fellow officers.”
January 30th, 2014: Whistleblower Maurice McCabe wears his full garda uniform as he appears before the PAC.
His private testimony focuses on the “systems, practices and procedures” of the penalty point system, according to chair John McGuinness.
The Fianna Fáil TD says in a statement: “No garda officer was named, third parties who had tickets cancelled were not named, no instance was cited where a member of the force, a member of the public, or any outside body was accused of acting wrongly.”
Maurice McCabe | Photo: RollingNews.ie
March 12th, 2015: An independent report by the Garda Inspectorate finds “consistent and widespread breaches of policy” in the handling of fixed notice charges and recommends a complete overhaul of the system.
The watchdog says it considers McCabe’s information to “credible”, which prompts calls for Callinan to retract his remarks about the whistleblowers.
The garda chief subsequently releases a statement clarifying why he used the word “disgusting” in his testimony to the PAC.
"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," he says.
March 25th, 2014: Martin Callinan resigns, saying “recent developments” have distracted from the force’s work.
May 26th, 2016: John McGuinness claims the ex-garda chief privately approached him two years ago in an attempt to undermine McCabe.
“Every effort was made by those within the Garda Síochána at senior level to discredit Garda Maurice McCabe,” he tells the Dáil.
“The garda commissioner confided in me in a car park on the Naas Road that Garda McCabe was not to be trusted and there were serious issues about him.
"The vile stories that circulated about Garda McCabe, which were promoted by senior officers in the Garda Síochána were absolutely appalling.
"Because they attempted to discredit him, he had to bring forward various pieces of strong evidence to protect his integrity.
"During the course of that time, we have to recognise that the political establishment was of absolutely no help to him.
“Every effort was made to ensure he would not appear before the Committee of Public Accounts.
“Every effort was made to dampen down the strong evidence he put into the public domain, which he had to do to protect himself, to inform us about what was going on with penalty points and other issues.”