Feb 232010
 

Is this the start of the coup?  It seems that elements within our police force have colluded with a political party to force the resignation of a government minister.

Trevor Sargent has resigned after a letter he wrote in June 2008 to a policeman became public.

The letter concerned a man who complained to a parent about vandalism, and was  headbutted and hospitalised for his trouble.

Now, if I had been headbutted by the scumbag father of a scumbag vandal, I might well find myself engaging in threatening and abusive behaviour too, and if I was charged by the local cops, as a result of trying to prevent vandalism in my neighbourhood, I think I’d be outraged.

I’d expect my elected representatives to be just as outraged, and that’s exactly how Sargent felt about it.

Sargent wrote to a policeman involved, complaining that this man had been charged when all he was trying to do was prevent vandalism in his area, but the police went ahead with the prosecution anyway and the man received a fine.

That was two years ago.

Recently, as everyone knows now, the Green Party insisted on Willie O’Dea’s removal from office because he swore a false statement to the High Court.

The minister for justice, Dermot Ahern, was particularly vocal in defending O’Dea’s abuse of the court.

Now, within a few days, the letter from Sargent to the police has been passed to a newspaper and Sargent has resigned in an apparent act of political revenge by Fianna Fáil.

It isn’t immediately apparent that what Sargent did was illegal.

According to the Prosecution of Offences Act, 1974, it is legal for a person to communicate with a Garda  as  a social worker. Since the Act does not require such a person to be formally employed as a social worker, it could reasonably be argued that Trevor Sargent was acting as a social worker and was therefore within his rights in writing to the police.

In my opinion, the Green Party panicked and allowed Sargent to resign prematurely, but now that he’s gone, here are a few questions.

  • Did a Garda copy the lettter from the police file ?
  • When was the letter copied – was it immediately on receipt,  or was it in the last week?
  • Who was the copy given to — was it a reporter or somebody else?
  • Who informed the newspaper about the existence of the letter?
  • Who passed the letter to the reporter was it a Garda or somebody else?

While its by no means obvious that Trevor Sargent did anything illegal in  writing to the policeman, I think it’s certainly a crime to copy a confidential police file and pass the details to a third party.

Will  some policeman be charged with a crime?

Will some Fianna Fáil politician be charged with a crime?

Will  the Minister for Justice be asked in the Dáil to explain how a Garda file was passed to the newspapers only days after he had personally defended the actions of Willie O’Dea in misleading the courts?

Given the contempt for the High Court displayed recently by the minister for justice, the defence minister and the prime minister, this is a very dangerous development for our fragile democracy.

_________________________

The Prosecution of Offences Act 1974, Section 6, states as follows:-

6.—(1) ( a ) Subject to the provisions of this section it shall not be lawful to communicate with the Attorney General or an officer of the Attorney General, the Director or an officer of the Director the Acting Director, a member of the Garda Síochána or a solicitor who acts on behalf of the Attorney General in his official capacity for the Director in his official capacity, for the purpose of influencing making of a decision to withdraw or not to initiate criminal proceedings or any particular charge in criminal proceedings.

( b ) If a person referred to in paragraph (a) of this subsection becomes of opinion that a communication is in breach of that paragraph, it shall be the duty of the person not to entertain the communication further.

(2) ( a ) This section does not apply to—

(i) communications made by a person who is a defendant or a complainant in criminal proceedings or believes that he is likely to be a defendant in criminal proceedings, or

(ii) communications made by a person involved in the matter either personally or as legal or medical adviser to a person involved in the matter or as a social worker or a member of the family of a person involved in the matter.

( b ) In this subsection “member of the family” means wife, husband, father, mother, grandfather, grandmother, stepfather, stepmother, son, daughter, grandson, granddaughter, stepson, stepdaughter, brother, sister, half-brother, half-sister, a person who is the subject of, or in whose favour there is made, an adoption order under the Adoption, Act 1952 and 1964.

  44 Responses to “Trevor Sargent Resigns Following Political Action by Gardai”

Comments (44)
  1.  

    I have always thought of Sargent as one of the better TDs, and see no reason to change that view following todays events, even though he is a representative of a totally discredited political party.

    I wonder. Did a disgruntled “Member” of An Garda Síochána leak the correspondence as retaliation for the recent pay and pension cuts imposed by the current incumbents?

    All may be revealed in time…

  2.  

    Fair play to Trevor for owning up and resigning.
    So different to WOD.
    FF out!

  3.  

    Amazing how quickly the Garda Commissioner reacted to this one. Immediate investigation !! I hope Phoenix gets some stuff on this.

  4.  

    Missed that. Old Fachtna announced an investigation, did he? That means it’ll be buried.

  5.  

    He announced the investigation before Trev even resigned ! But you can bet it’ll revolve around headed notepaper and suchlike.

  6.  

    Hell hath no fury like a Willie scorned?

  7.  

    Bock,

    this has to be one of the shortest resignation cycles ever, about 5 hours from publication in the Herald to his resignation speech. The Greens have been shafted again by FF, but that’s what they get for throwing away their principles. Sure Gormley and Ryan got their arses into a ministerial Lexus Hybrid or whatever the fuck they’re spending our money on. But they’re paying the price now and there will be more to come. A lot more.

    But wasn’t it interesting to see how quickly Murphy came out and called for an inquiry? About two hours. Nice to see his new found efficiency, I wonder will he bring this wonderful zeal to investigating O’Dea, or Anglo? Remember that? It hasn’t gone away you know.

    The Moriarty report is due for release very soon, then the Docklands Authority one that Gormley is sitting on as well. Lots of things to cause more resignations, throw in Lenihans health as well and hopefully this fucking criminal regime will get voted out before NAMA actually goes through and gets approved by the EU. I’m hoping beyond hope, that we have some redemption and that whoever the fuck gets in next time repeal NAMA as the first thing they do.

    Slim hope I know, but it’s all I’ve got.

  8.  

    It doesn’t look like a cycle of any sort. It looks like a revenge.

    Now is the time for the Greens to pull the plug, if they have any principles, but hey, what the fuck am I talking about?

    This is the no-principle lapdog party. They’ll take any fucking FF is prepared to give them and they’ll scream thanks.

  9.  

    agreed
    when Trev stepped down to allow for FF coalescence after last election, they crapped on their “principles” and joined the group, “we are politicians and you cannot believe in anything we say”

  10.  

    i’m unclear as to if trevor asked for the investigation to be stopped, or was just asking the garda involved to follow up a few witnesses who had not been questioned. from what i heard the letter he wrote could be interpreted either way. more interesting than his request to the garda becoming public, is how his reply to the individual who looked for help become public knowledge. in this letter he tells the individual, that he has acted on the matter, and if needs be he will follow it up further.
    as for a fianna fail revenge attack, i’m not sure. is it possible that a disgruntled civil servant leaked it? they’d surely know where all the good stuff is hidden.
    the greens pull the plug? i think they have to be in office a bit longer to ensure their ministerial pension.

  11.  

    I understand the urgent desire to get FF out – however:

    The global economic situation is going to get a LOT worse; if your goal is the ultimate collapse of FF, then the best possible outcome is for the current Junta to cling to power until 2011 (2012 would be better still).

    Yes, it’s painful – but the nadir is some way off yet. I think that a 2012 election could well see FF reduced to third party status, behind Labour (who may be the opposition party to a single party FG govt, or a FG/IND setup). At least the tumour of FF would be removed from Irish society, if nothing else.

    FF would, even now, cling to opposition status – watch the current Republican party in the US for an analog. MUCH better for them to hold on for dear life; 2007 was the “election to lose” – the same goes for 2010.

  12.  

    Any possibility that Trev engineered this himself?

  13.  

    Hardly Mel, he could easily have used some other pretext and stood down without leaving himself open to an investigation. There are rumours about more letters Sargent is supposed to have sent to Superintendents etc. Which could easily have been passed onto Dept of Justice and Ahern’s grubby hands.

    Bock what I meant by cycle earlier was the short amount of time between the story breaking and the resignation, less than 6 hours. Must be a world record, no? But I do agree with you that it was revenge.

  14.  

    It isn’t at all obvious that TS did anything illegal. A reading of the relevant act suggests that he didn’t.

  15.  

    I believe what is being considered illegal is the content of his communication with the Garda, not the fact that he got in touch with her/him.

    Also the fact that the letters contain one between Sargent and the constituent in question (a letter that it is highly improbable that the Gardaí would have) means I would look for a different source than the Gardaí, or at least multiple sources.

    I live in his constituency and the majority of the speculation last night was that the leek was due to a personal relationship gone sour rather than politics. What the truth is I don’t believe we will ever trully know.

  16.  

    RTE Radio 1 are claiming that further correspondence is to be published later this afternoon. This time, they claim, a letter from Sargent to a Garda Superintendant referring to “previous correspondence” (implying that there has been a series of communications) where Sargent expresses his concern with the way that his constituent was treated.

    If this turns out to be true, then the leak may have originated in the Green Party or Sargent camp. The only alternative that I can see is a very high level leak in An Garda Síochána.

    No wonder Fachtna Murphy is all over this like a rash.

  17.  

    Gah, I fear my spelling of leak was a Freudian slip of sorts.

    Also just because the leak may have originated from Sargent’s camp, it doesn’t mean that it didn’t pass through another parties hands on it’s way to the press.

  18.  

    Only a fool wouldn’t see the connection with Willie O’Dea’s resignation. Tit for tat, as you point out Bock. However it’s worth noting that while W O’D had to be forced to resign long, long after he should have, Sargent, seemingly recognising that “officially” he crossed the line and no matter how justified he felt in doing so he assumed his responsibility under the laws to which we are all supposed to be accountable. I have no doubt that in the long run this will play to Sargent’s credit (as it already is in some cases) and will serve to further highlight the fraternal cronyism that is part and parcel of our political, Burren-esque landscape.

  19.  

    I’m still not convinced that he broke any law.

  20.  

    Could it have been another party trying to destabilise what’s left?

  21.  

    It could even have been a disgruntled Green insider.

  22.  

    Perhaps a politician could be described as a “social worker” but only from a relative point of view and he was relatively speaking acting outside the rules. Sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. There’s no point saying he had a valid, applaudable even, reason for doing it as no doubt Wee Willie could try and claim the same for having lied to the High Court. Let’s just say it was “inappropriate”. But UNLIKE Wee Willie & Co. Sargent stood down immediately. That speaks volumes. That shows respect for the law, even if he doesn’t agree with it or feels he was morally justified in contacting the Garda.
    I feel Sargent will come out of this with his integrity boosted, and of course the really revealing details in this case are not Sargent’s actions themselves, whom most would applaud, but how it came to be leaked and by whom. I mean while we’re being sticklers for the rules as regards Mr. Sargent then it would seem only normal and fair to put any other “inappopriate” behaviour under the same magnifying glass by asking such questions as;
    * Did a Garda copy the lettter from the police file ?
    * When was the letter copied – was it immediately on receipt, or was it in the last week?
    * Who was the copy given to — was it a reporter or somebody else?
    * Who informed the newspaper about the existence of the letter?
    * Who passed the letter to the reporter was it a Garda or somebody else?
    if you catch my drift.

    If Sargent plays his cards right and follows this up with enough detemination he might be able to turn this whole thing around and make a Padraig Flynn out of the Cabal involved.
    Either way, he went up a notch, if a very small one, in my book.

  23.  

    “It could even have been a disgruntled Green insider.”

    Or indeed a mole. It would make sense from a strategic point of view for Fianna Fail to know what the party they are obliged to coalesse with in order to keep power are doing. Save any unsavoury surprises.

  24.  

    The point I’m making is that the term “social worker” isn’t defined in the Act. Therefore, anyone doing work of a social nature, such as attempting to protect a citizen under threat, could reasonably be described as a social worker in the context of that activity.

  25.  

    Well the Herald has copies of the letter printed on page 3 and it has handwritten reference notes on it (you know the type you get in letters from dealings with the civil service) and one saying “Faxed to C & C” Does that mean faxed to Command & Control / Phoenix Park HQ? And onto Ahern?

    Hmmmm . . . . . it’s looking dodgier and dodgier.

  26.  

    True enough I suppose Bock. If the word isn’t defined in the law then it’s very debatable. However, consider the Joe Duffilicious response (and well timed diversion) that might hve followed if he had tried to argue that as a reason to keep his job. We both know that the truth of the matter has nothing to do with the actaul outcome.
    Perhaps Mr. Sargent saw the Catch 22 before him and decided to fall on his own sword rather than Ahern’s.

    As the word “social worker” doesn’t seem to be defined in the Act, who would the decision on the legality of his action be down to? The Supreme Court?

  27.  

    I doubt it would ever get as far as the supreme court. The act explicitly permits a person involved in the case as a social worker to commmunicate with the Gardaí, but remains silent on what exactly a social worker is. Likewise, the term “social worker” is not a protected one under the law, as far as I’m aware.

    Therefore, on the face of it, TS was acting in this case as a social worker and was legally entitled to do what he did.

  28.  

    So if I was applying for a job as a social worker, and was asked had I previous experience, I could say yes, I wrote to a Guard once?

  29.  

    You could say that you once tried to help a man you believed was being intimidated.

  30.  

    If Trevor Sargent had bandaged the headbutted man’s head, would he then be, on the face if it, acting in this case as a doctor and be legally entitled to do what he did?

  31.  

    It’s an offence to claim to be a doctor, because doctors are required to be registered, and the practice of medicine is carefully regulated by law, unlike social work. Therefore, TS could not claim to be a doctor, or to be acting as one. The specific wording of the Act refers to a medical adviser, which would require expertise in medicine.

    Certain professions, such as solicitors, architects, doctors, chartered engineers and the like are defined in law and it’s an offence to falsely claim to be a member of such a group.

    Social workers are not regulated, and their professional titles are not protected by law. Anyone can be a social worker if they do work of a social nature.

  32.  

    Fair enough Bock, but then anyone who writes to a Garda regarding a case can claim to be acting as a social worker, so the very act of writing the letter, makes writing the letter legal?

  33.  

    It’s not illegal to claim to be a social worker.

  34.  

    But it’s illegal to write to a Garda to try to influence a prosecution unless you’re a social worker, member of family or medical advisor. If I’m getting it right, you’re saying that because T.S. wrote to the Garda on behalf of this man, it could be argued that T.S. was acting as a social worker.
    By that logic, nobody could break this law, as anyone who in similar circumstances, writes to the a garda, is acting as a social worker.

  35.  

    Yes, that’s exactly what I’m saying. It’s a sloppily-drafted provision.

  36.  

    Hi Bock,

    one implication of what you are saying is that, as a qualified Social Worker, Mary Coughlan could in theory write to any garda in the state about any case that took her fancy, without being in breach of the Act quoted above. That’s a scary thought – maybe she’ll intervene in the Willie investigation – as his social worker, she may well be concerned about the effect that any investigation could have on his mental equilibrium!

    An appallig vista.

  37.  

    What is a qualified social worker?

  38.  

    With regards to resignations, here is a link to an article about a New Zealand minister who resigned today after admitting claiming expenses for 2 bottles of wine as ‘food and beverages’ instead of just ‘beverages’

    http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/3372681/Housing-Minister-Phil-Heatley-resigns-portfolios

    I bet John O Donoghue, Willie et al would have a good laugh at that one

  39.  

    I respectfully submit that an individual who has a degree in Social Science and has worked as a Social Worker would have to be regarded as a qualified social worker by most normal people.

    But I acknowledge the point of your question.

  40.  

    There’s a bit of tautology in there.

    Someone who worked as a social worker is a social worker.

  41.  

    Maark,
    I nearly missed that comment in regard to the Docklands thing.
    That looks like getting a little durty for the BIFFO as well doesn’t it,
    Will Trevor still be sitting on that committee now?

    Is there something even more sinister going on? A pre-emptive strike maybe?

  42.  

    Disclosure: Know nothing about Sargent, have no opinion about him one way or the other.

    I think perhaps this is why he had to resign (this from the Citizen’s Info site):
    http://www.citizensinformation.ie/categories/health/care-in-your-community/social_work_services
    “Social workers in Ireland
    The Irish Association of Social Workers, is the the national body representing Social Workers in Ireland. For more information on social work in Ireland, contact the Assocation at the address below. (See ‘Where to apply’).
    If you are interested in working as a Social Worker in Ireland, you should contact the National Social Workers Qualification Board”

    Since he is not a member of the Irish Association of Social Workers and he does not posess a qualification from the NSWQB, he cannot claim that he wrote the letter as a Social Worker…which would mean his letter was an attempt to abuse his position by perverting the course of justice

    That and his previous public stance on this kind of thing:
    (Qoute from 2002: “‘Any representation relating to a court case ought to be acknowledged with a warning about the need not to interfere in any way with due judicial process”)

    But that’s just a guess. What I don’t understand is, why would he write a letter in this case? Surely a phone call or visit to see the Supt. in question would have been a) more likely to work and b) leave less of a paper trail that could come back and bite you in the ass? And after writing a letter, wouldn’t you read it over to make bloody sure that your language was 100% not going to get you in trouble later on…Such a small thing to lose your career over!

    It does make me wonder though, if this kind of leakage is going to start happening wholesale…imagine if we ended up with the whole lot of them having to resign!

  43.  

    It wasn’t fucking Lee Harvey Oswald that leaked the letter. Cui Bono (Who benefits) is the old phrase. Fianna Fail having chosen to keep their shitty arses in power by dumping Willie, craved a reprisal. There would also have been a nice bit of publicity for the new green senator Deerey on his first day in the Seanad. He just happens to be from Dundalk, the constituency of Dermot Ahern.
    Bock has got the Fachtna part right-don’t expect to hear anything soon. And how is the Anglo investigation going? Pity Fachtna & Co and James Hamilton DPP are so slooooow on this one. One wonders why?

  44.  

    Joe Duffy is a social worker…no really, he is. No relevance, just commenting.

Leave a Reply