Claims of ‘whispering campaign’ over Garda College scandal

One of the country’s most senior civilian gardaí has claimed he was subjected to a “whispering campaign” for highlighting the garda college financial scandal and that colleagues who raised similar concerns risked being demoted.

Garda civilian head of human resources John Barrett

Garda civilian head of human resources John Barrett made the claims in an 80-page letter sent to the Dáil Public Accounts Committee (PAC) yesterday.

In correspondence to the committee as it prepares to finalise its report into the financial scandal and, as a separate damning letter from garda auditor Niall Kelly is expected to be received later today, Mr Barrett lashed out at his treatment by senior managers.

Directly contradicting Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan’s evidence to the PAC, he said officials were aware of the scale of the crisis at the garda college weeks before they claim to have been first told.

And, in comments that are likely to lead to fresh concern over the treatment of whistleblowers in the force, Mr Barrett said that instead of being thanked for highlighting concerns, he was allegedly subjected to a “whispering campaign” which threatened his and others’ positions.

In the lengthy statement to the PAC, Mr Barrett — who has already attended meetings with the committee — said:

  • He was subjected to a “whispering campaign”, with his “reward for my persistence” in highlighting garda college financial concerns being “spurious criminal allegations” that he breached the Official Secrets Act by keeping notes on what he found;
  • That one senior garda sent him documents at the time of his discoveries about the garda college “to suggest that I was aware of all the issues at play and that I did nothing for a number of months”, a claim against Mr Barret that has been proven to be untrue;
  • That Ms O’Sullivan’s PAC evidence about when she was informed about the garda college concerns is contradicted by clear, private records from the period kept by Mr Barrett;
  • That garda head of legal affairs Ken Ruane and director of communications Andrew McLindon were subjected to “revised reporting arrangements” and different management structures after highlighting the college issue alongside Mr Barrett.

In a separate section of his 80-page letter, Mr Barrett also called for a forensic examination of the St Raphael’s Garda Credit Union since 1999, which he said is needed to uncover whether EU funds and other money related to the garda college passed through accounts.

He concluded by quoting a book called Lies In The Mirror by current Disclosures Tribunal chair Mr Justice Peter Charleton, in which the retired judge writes that “deceit is the primary instrument for doing evil”.

“Most especially then, of all organisations, truth and accountability must be found to have a genuine value in An Garda Síochána,” Mr Barrett said.

The letter was received before further correspondence from garda civilian auditor Niall Kelly is expected to arrive later today, which is believed to be focussed on the level of bank accounts linked to the garda college.

However, despite the PAC asking Ms O’Sullivan to also send in an updated letter, no such correspondence had arrived by last night.


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