On December 14, 2012, Sergeant Maurice McCabe was asked to remain on after work in Mullingar Garda Station.
He was visited by Chief Superintendent Mark Curran, who was to issue him with a direction from Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan. A few days earlier, Garda John Wilson had been discovered printing off records from the Pulse computer system in Cavan. As a result, garda management decided to issue a direction against both McCabe and Wilson in relation to using Pulse records. Both gardaí had over the previous months made complaints about the abuse of the penalty points system.
McCabe recorded the conversation on December 14 for his own protection.
The transcript of that conversation is as follows:
Chief Superintendent Mark Curran [reading]: “Correspondence from commissioner.
“Direction to desist searching Pulse and dissemination to a third party, of sensitive personal data regarding cancellation of fixed charged notices.
“The commissioner understands that you have been searching and printing out from pulse documents that contain sensitive personal data regarding the cancellation of the fixed charge notices. The commissioner further understands that it is your intention to provide a third party with that documentation. It is noted that sensitive personal data in relation to fixed charge cancellation have already appeared in the public domain.
“The commissioner has sought the advice of the Attorney General and has consulted with the Data Protection Commissioner in respect of this matter.
“You are aware that there is power as set out in the Garda policy procedure and guidelines for canceling these fixed charge notices in certain instances in such circumstances. Having consulted with the above mentioned authority, the commissioner is satisfied that you’re continued access Pulse data and disclosure of such it and personal data to a third party is likely to be in breach of the Data Protection Act and other legislation, as well as being prejudicial to the current investigation being undertaken by Assistant Commissioner John O’Mahony.
“OK, so that is the instructions to you in his direction.
“The direction is as follows: The commissioner is now directing you to desist from the practice of accessing Pulse and or disclosing to third parties sensitive personal data regarding the cancellation of fixed charge notices by members of An Garda Siochána. If you have any further concerns and without prejudice of your rights under the Confidential Reporting Mechanism, such matters can be brought to the attention of Assistant Commissioner John O’Mahony, Crime and Security, who will fully investigate those matters.”
McCabe: But I didn’t do any of that?
Curran: Well, I’m only telling you that that is the directions from the commissioner.
McCabe: And what happens under the Garda Siochána Act, where you are allowed hand over stuff, under Section 62 and the whistleblower charter, what about that?
Curran: I think you need to raise that with Assistant Commissioner Mahony, honestly that might be the way you pursue it.
McCabe: That’s a serious accusation.
Curran: The directions on it, and just to make sure we are both clear, I’ll read it out to you again.
McCabe: No, I am very clear. He is accusing me of handing stuff over, [Curran then reads out the first paragraph in the report again to explain what the commissioner is accusing me of. And then reads out the whole lot again]. So he is saying I did that.
Curran: The commissioner has facts on which he is basing these comments on. So I’ll read it out one more time so you understand. [He reads it all out again].
McCabe: He is basically saying that I gave the information to somebody else, so the whistleblower charter is gone, finished, cause he is saying there. If the Data Protection Commissioner asks me for stuff what do I do, do I say no to him? He has asked for stuff.
Curran: No, no, don’t. If you want authority to do anything or if you have an issue there in relation to those matters, you can talk to Assistant Commissioner John O’Mahony. Or you can send your concerns here in relation to that.
McCabe: So I can’t go near the whistleblower charter anymore? Obviously!
Curran: You cannot.
McCabe: I can. [Curran reads out the report again]. He’s after accusing me of stuff there that I didn’t do and that is shocking. The only person I forwarded stuff to was An Taoiseach, so I’ll have to take it up with him. Cause he must be the third party? Shocking stuff.
Curran: I know but that’s his legal advice.
McCabe: But even the Data Protection Commissioner, he asked me for stuff, so what do I say to him, no?
Curran: Well that’s the instruction and you’ll be in breach of discipline and any other possible acts if you ignore it.
McCabe: So am I allowed email Enda Kenny about that.
Curran: I can give you an answer, my own personal answer but I think you should address it with John O’Mahony. The direction is down here that he will deal with your concerns.
McCabe: Shocking stuff. So basically, I can do nothing.
Curran: What you need to do is do what you’re meant to do, your day-to- day duty.
McCabe: Oh, and not report anything which is wrong which…
Curran: This is a direction from the commissioner, you are searching Pulse for a particular reason.
McCabe: I got a complaint in relation to that from a garda, I carried out my duty.
Curran: Did you report that?
McCabe: I carried out my duty.
Curran: Did you report it here?
McCabe: I carried out my duty, I carried out my duties in relation to that.
Curran: Did you report it thought the channels?
McCabe: I carried out all my duties in relation to it.
McCabe: I used the whistleblowing charter. Let’s not argue, as regards the last paragraph, you’ll have no issue with me here anymore.
Curran: That’s all I want to know.
McCabe: You won’t chief, you won’t, no. But it’s just amazing. I did not think it was that, I thought it was something.
Curran: No, you should follow that, it is a direction.
McCabe: Yes, it is, and I will follow that, I won’t disobey any direction and you can make note of that, Paddy, I won’t disobey any directions in relation to that. You have my full compliance. But, I’m just amazed, but sure…
McCabe: Do I get a copy of that?
McCabe: OK, well it won’t happen anyway. I give you my word on that. It’s not your problem anyway, you were sent to read it out to me.
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