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Guerin Report on Garda Handling Of Sergeant Maurice McCabe’s Allegations

If you thought Sergeant Maurice McCabe’s whistle-blowing was all about getting penalty points looked after, think again. This is about murders, beatings, sex assaults and other investigations, all botched or worse by the Gardai. It’s about a man of principle, victimised by the organisation he works for simply because he told the truth.

The Guerin report systematically forges its way through a series of complaints raised by McCabe, and finds every one of them credible enough to warrant a formal inquiry. These are the same complaints that former Commissioner Martin Callinan found, as he put it, frankly disgusting.

Chapter by chapter, Guerin sketches out a series of pictures ranging from horror to farce.

  • A young woman dead because her killer was freed on bail when Gardai failed to provide a court with vital  information.
  • An Assistant Commissioner wrestling with McCabe in a hotel lounge for possession of a box of documents.
  • A Garda approaching the victim of an assault and negotiating payment of compensation instead of prosecuting the culprits.
  • Gardai unable to obtain video of an attack in a pub even though it had been shown on CCTV to a large audience.
  • Gardai losing a priest’s computer after seizing it for technical examination on suspicion of child pornography. Following complaints by McCabe against a senior officer, he himself was later subjected to disciplinary procedures, even though he had nothing to do with the case.
  • Professionals in a Monaghan town reluctant to cooperate with any investigation for fear of retaliation.
  • Gardai advising victims of crime to withdraw complaints.
  • Gardaí falsifying entries in the operational database to cover up malpractice.

Assault, false imprisonment, death threats, intimidation. It goes on and on.

Finally, we have the unedifying spectacle of the Garda Commissioner being invited by the Minister to investigate complaints against himself and giving himself a clean bill of health. It was Alan Shatter’s casual acceptance of Callinan’s hubris-filled reply, combined with his own failure to understand his legal obligations that finally made it impossible for him to stay in the job.

Few people emerge well from this review, apart from Maurice McCabe himself. Guerin makes it clear that McCabe is a policeman of the highest integrity who genuinely believes in his role on behalf of the community.

An Garda Síochána comes across as an antiquated, hidebound relic, with attitudes rooted in 1920s Ireland, and rigid managerial structures that mask an almost complete absence of real discipline. In Guerin’s words, discipline is not merely the absence of insubordination and in this 336-page document, he shows us a force without direction, without vision but also without fear of consequences. We see unprofessional local Gardai misusing their positions to intimidate anyone who might criticise them. We see a hierarchy utterly blind to any suggestion of wrongdoing, in the habit of setting up sham investigations and completely resistant to what it sees as interference.

What we see in this report is a deeply dysfunctional police force, barely tolerant of the government and the public it serves. We see an organisation with a rigidly top-down structure, impervious to change, suspicious of everyone and aggressively resistant to criticism. We see bumbling incompetence. We see a club of people, many of whom regard membership as a way to do favours for their friends and to derive personal gain for themselves.

Despite the outstanding example of Maurice McCabe, what we do not see is widespread professionalism, but as we speak, it has just been announced that Maurice McCabe’s full access to the Garda IT system has been restored, thus confirming that all the attempts to dismiss him as a troublemaker were only so much guff and hot air.

The old nonsense won’t wash any more. It’s not a problem with Monaghan or Cavan or Donegal. It’s a problem with the nature and the structure of the organisation, and it needs a proportionate response. It’s about time we had a complete reform of our national police service and it’s about time all the old dinosaurs were sent out to graze the primeval forests they came from.

It won’t be done without a struggle though. I’d hate to be a source close to Martin Callinan’s dog right now.



Alan Shatter Resigns

Martin Callinan Decommissions Himself

Garda Meltdown Is Only A Symptom of a Deeper Irish Problem

It’s Time to Reform an Garda Síochána

Gardai and Catholic Church. Both Losing Hearts and Minds

The Smithwick Tribunal Report — Would It Have Been Cheaper to Read Tarot Cards?

The Morris Tribunal and the Wall of Silence

The Framing of Frank Shortt

McBrearty Settles Action Against Irish State for €3 Million





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Leo Varadkar Calls on Callinan to Retract “Disgusting” Slur Against Garda Whistle-Blowers

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.

Martin Callinan Garda Commissioner Public Accounts Committee

Who believes Callinan when he says that his disgusting comment was about inappropriate access to confidential information?

I don’t.

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.