Political system ‘ignores the rights of people’

Whistleblower ‘usually ends up the victim’

The political system has its “head in the sand” and “ignores the rights of the people” when whistleblowers act in good faith to raise issues of public concern, the Dáil was told.

The chairman of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) said those who blow the whistle are turned into “broken people” because of “what we, the politicians, and the democratic process have visited upon them.”

John McGuinness said: “Nobody in this place listens, and nobody in this place responds. It just stubbornly sticks its head in the sand and ignores the rights of people.”

He added: “That does not make me feel proud of this democratic system.”

The person who comes forward with a complaint, usually ends up the victim, he said. “The person’s health will be broken. Their job will probably be gone. They will not be able to serve anymore.”

“That is the history of this, if one looks back on it. They are the ones who have tried to do the State some service. It is an appalling situation.”

Mr McGuinness was instrumental in ensuring that Garda whistleblower Maurice McCabe had his voice heard when he persisted in bringing him before the PAC, despite efforts by the Government to stop the hearings.

Yesterday, he said the garda has “revealed a lot of facts that have shocked people” and has been “proven correct” despite being “poked at and made fun of.” It wasn’t until two weeks ago that we discovered the Comptroller and Auditor General report on administration of the penalty point system “was based on interviews with the very same man,” he said.

“And yet the politicians’ system wouldn’t look after him or listen to him.”

The Fianna Fáil TD was speaking during a debate on the Protected Disclosures Bill — legislation being introduced Public Expenditure and Reform Minister Brendan Howlin — aimed at protecting whistleblowers.

He welcomed the legislation but said the coalition should start by listening to whistleblowers who are raising concerns now.

He called for an independent inquiry into a hit-and-run case perpetrated by a man who was serving suspended sentences on both sides of the border, who had 40 convictions here and 17 in other jurisdictions.

The victim’s mother, Lucia O’Farrell, wrote to the Taoiseach and the Justice Minister, but got a “cold response.” Mr McGuinness appealed to Mr Howlin to ensure someone from Government meets the woman, but he said she should go to the Oireachtas Oversight Committee.

Mr McGuinness said: “Six weeks after killing this woman’s son, he received two sets of two weeks running concurrently and he was asked to sign on at Carrickmacross.”

“He was serving a sentence in another jurisdiction. He didn’t sign at the Garda station but nobody bothered to pick that up. Some of that information was not presented at his case, nothing,” Mr McGuinness told the Dáil.

“On the one hand the State had given this man a senior counsel, a junior counsel, an interpreter and a solicitor. The State gave her and her family who lost a son a junior counsel,” he said.

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