I bet Leo Varadkar was that annoying toddler who tried to pull the chin-whiskers of elderly aunties, but it’s hard not to like his bull-in-a-china-shop indifference to other people’s sensitivities. When he came straight out and called Martin Callinan on his bullshit, Varadkar was only saying what everyone else in the country thinks. Come off it, Martin.
Who believes Callinan when he says that his disgusting comment was about inappropriate access to confidential information?
Trying to justify his comments, this is what Martin Callinan said:
I want to clarify that 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.
What I heard when the Garda Commissioner addressed the Public Accounts Committee was something quite different. I heard him saying that, of thirteen thousand Gardai, only two whistle-blowers were making allegations of corruption and malpractice, and he found it disgusting.
Don’t take my word for it. Judge for yourself what you think Martin Callinan said.
Here is the head of our national police force which, unfortunately, is also the national security agency, attempting to rubbish suggestions of malpractice in his force. This is the same police chief who dismissed out of hand the critical findings of a High Court judge, Peter Smithwick, with a bland soundbite: this is not the force I lead.
Callinan’s pugnacious defence of the force he leads might have been laudable in an earlier era, but not today, and especially not in the wake of a report from another High Court judge, Fred Morris, who absolutely excoriated the force for its systemic corruption. After seven years, no action has been taken on foot of the Morris Tribunal’s findings.
Of course, this has always been a society based on the nod and the wink, and whether Martin Callinan would acknowledge it or not, he is as much a product of our nod-and-wink culture as anyone else. Who hasn’t been friendly with a Garda willing to get a summons squared or a ticket fixed? Well, the answer is that plenty of people aren’t in that fortunate position, but they’d be the people who don’t matter anyway. The poor, the unimportant, the weakest.
For the rest of society, as often as not, it has always been possible to get minor charges fixed, depending on your relationship with the right people in our police force who, incidentally, need not be at a senior level. In a monastic organisation such as an Garda Síochána, everyone is equal. Templemore stays in the blood long after you’ve hopped on the last train out of it.
It’s ironic that Sergeant Maurice McCabe’s access to the PULSE system is strictly limited given the fact that other more junior Gardai routinely plug their USB sticks into it and download information that can, at best, be described as gossip about unconvicted citizens. It’s doubly ironic, in an age of viruses and trojans, that those Gardai’s laptops could easily be used by their children to access the web, to interact on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat or a dozen less reputable networks and therefore that confidential PULSE data is vulnerable to hacking by anyone wishing to read it.
Some IT technicians have suggested that the simplest way to access the PULSE system is to turn up at a Garda station with an aluminium case, catch the eye of the Garda at the desk and point to the door. I believe them. That’s how Ireland works, unfortunately, and yet a decent Garda is only permitted to access the system under strict supervision, because he tried to expose corruption.
It’s good that Leo Varadkar rejected the disgusting slur on two honourable policemen, and called on the Garda commissioner to retract it. It’s good that Joan Burton agreed with him. It’s good that Pat Rabbitte, however equivocally, supported the call to vindicate the whistleblowers. It’s also good that Willie O’Dea, of all people, called on the commissioner to stop digging when he’s in a hole.
This is Ireland, however, and that’s why I have no confidence that Callinan will do anything other than reinforce his bunker.
In this land, we don’t retract and we don’t resign, even when we’ve lost the confidence of half the cabinet and all of the people.