The Garda whistleblower Sergeant Maurice McCabe has admitted that the pursuit of wrongdoing within the force cost him and his family six years of their lives.
In an exclusive interview with the Irish Examiner, Mr McCabe said that, in highlighting wrong-doing in the penalty points system, he was only interested in repeat offenders, because these were the cases that were potentially a threat to road safety.
Sgt McCabe and former Garda John Wilson were honoured with a People of the Year award on Saturday night for their services in highlighting the penalty points scandal that has led to a complete overhaul of the system.
He said he had not been looking for small stuff. “I concentrated on the repeat offenders, the people who were getting off despite being caught again and again, often doing crazy speeds,” said Sgt McCabe.
The resistance he met in highlighting the issue, and the failure to properly investigate crime in the Co Cavan area, took its toll on his family, said his wife, Lorraine.
“It took over Maurice’s life completely, and we had to live with it,” she said. “Fear was my biggest thing. The fear of being set up for something. With all we had seen, you’d just never know.”
In the following months, a succession of events saw his core allegations of the mishandling of criminal investigations come to the fore. Senior counsel Sean Guerin investigated, and vindicated practically everything that Sgt McCabe had been saying.
Reports from the Garda Inspectorate on the penalty points, and criminal investigations within the force, further endorsed everything he had been saying.
“Every day Maurice went into work, he’d ring and I’d ask whether anything was waiting for him in there, he was getting all these instructions from Dublin,” said Lorraine. “Maurice goes out of the house and turns right, for Mullingar, where he’s based. I turn left and meet everybody. You’d see it, guards’ wives avoiding me. Some people stopped talking to me. It was all out in the public. And then, when the truth finally came out it was like a shadow had been lifted from our lives.”
Despite the toll, however, the sergeant, who is now serving in Mullingar, believes it was worth the outcome, which has seen Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan instigate a new regime which makes it much more difficult for the system to be abused.
“But I believe I did my job. I did my duty and that’s all that matters,” says Sgt McCabe.
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