The Government’s apology to Garda whistleblower Sergeant Maurice McCabe was a “blatant, brazen piece of hypocrisy” the Dáil has heard.
Fianna Fáil TD John McGuinness, who was a key witness in the Charleton Tribunal, said Sgt McCabe was highlighting issues in the force for 12 years but the Government “stood idly by and did nothing” until it was forced to act.
During statements on the Charleton report, which found Sgt McCabe was “a genuine person” who had “done the State considerable service”, Mr McGuinness said other public servant whistleblowers who have come forward have also been treated badly and “pulled through the courts”.
“As for the Government and the apology to Sgt McCabe, it was the most blatant, brazen piece of hypocrisy I have seen in a long time,” he said.
Former tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald, who resigned last year over the controversy around her knowledge of a Garda strategy to smear Mr McCabe, accused TDs of using their Dáil privilege for “defamation laundering” and the creation of “fake news”.
Ms Fitzgerald, who was exonerated by the tribunal, said she could live quite contentedly without an apology from politicians who called for her resignation.
However, she said: “What is deeply worrying is politicians using the shelter of parliament to defame public servants. Had someone done this outside the House, legal recourse would have been possible, and predictable. But inside the Dáil, it is untouchable but printable. Unsupported defamation is walked into our national press wrapped in the cloak of Dáil privilege.”
Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone said the “grace under pressure” shown by Sgt McCabe during the entire process should set an example.
She admitted that Tusla, which was heavily criticised in Judge Charleton’s report, needs a “radical shake-up”. However, she said politicians and the media have a role to play as continuing negative coverage of Tusla is not helping with the recruitment and retention of staff.