Split avoided as PAC to hear from Garda whistleblower

The Dáil’s Public Accounts Committee has agreed to go ahead with plans to hear from a Garda whistleblower in an agreement that saw off a potentially damaging split among its members.

Serving Garda, Maurice McCabe, will appear before the committee tomorrow afternoon, two months after he handed them a dossier of files which he claims shines a light on how millions of euro have been lost to the state through a failure to properly implement the penalty points system.

He will give his evidence in a private meeting, based on his own legal advice, as part of the committee’s inquiry into whether weaknesses and controls in the system resulted in a loss to the exchequer.

The decision to hear his evidence was made despite an intervention by the Justice Minister, Alan Shatter, who said the Garda ombudsman should be allowed to proceed with its investigation on the issue “unhindered”.

Committee chairman John McGuinness said last night its work “is not finished” and the committee intends to compile a report “with findings and recommendations based on evidence that outlines potential loss of revenue and weaknesses in the system”. He said its work will not “overlap” with that of the ombudsman commission, which “will investigate the allegations of multiple incidents of wrongful cancellations which are outside the remit of the committee”.

The question of whether to proceed with its inquiry was initially rejected by government TDs at the three-hour private meeting of the committee yesterday afternoon.

But the nine members from Fine Gael and Labour adjourned the meeting for a private discussion, after the Independent TD, Shane Ross, and Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald, decided to push a vote on the issue.

The Government members then decided that they would agree to their position, in the interest of consensus and to avoid a divisive vote — something that is unprecedented in a committee that prides itself on its independence, and has traditionally spoken with one voice.

Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan last week threatened to block the appearance of Garda McCabe before the committee, describing his actions as “disgusting”.

But that threat of legal action no longer stands. Mr McCabe received a letter on Monday night from the assistant commissioner for human resources in the force, Fintan Fanning, offering the full support of Garda management in his actions.

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