Whistleblower considers legal advice on PAC appearance

A garda whistleblower who alleges widespread abuse of the penalty points system within the force will consider legal advice this weekend on his plans to give evidence to the Public Accounts Committee.

His boss — Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan — is also to reach a decision early next week on whether he can legally block the appearance of a serving member of the force next Thursday.

The commissioner said yesterday that he does not want to “hamper” the work of the committee but that “I have my own back yard to watch.”

The PAC chairman, John McGuinness, said Mr Callinan’s authority “is not being challenged” by its investigations. “We are trying to extract information around the loss of money to the State and the process that lead to that,” he said.

“We don’t want the whistleblower to name names or anything like that. He is central to these allegations, and he can inform us without giving away anyone’s identity.”

The whistleblower will have restricted legal privilege at the committee, and is to seek legal advice, for his own protection, so that he does not leave himself open to any criminal proceedings.

He will report back to the clerk of the committee early next week.

“My role as chairman is to protect the integrity or standing of the committee. I can’t let anything happen in relation to whistleblower that might cause damage to the committee,” Mr McGuinness said.

Justice Minister Alan Shatter has refused to release figures on how many gardaí have used the “confidential recipient” process for members to raise concerns, which was set up in 2008 in response to the Morris Report on garda corruption. Mr McGuinness and other members of the PAC said this information is important because it could demonstrate how effectively the process is working.

Under the process, whistleblowers can provide information to the office, which is then passed on to the Department of Justice and the commissioner, who must respond to the person who raises concerns.

Asked why the figures on how often it has been used could not be released, a spokesperson for Mr Shatter said: “There is no provision for the minister to either publish the report or to lay the report before the Houses of the Oireachtas.

At the PAC meeting on Thursday, Mr Callinan described the action of two whistleblowers who raised concerns about the administration of the penalty points system in the force as “disgusting.”

But Mr McGuinness told the Irish Examiner yesterday: “The only thing I thought was disgusting was the way the whistleblowers were treated.

“And it’s not only in the Garda, this State treats whistle-blowers in the most appalling way.”

Mr McGuinness called for an independent office to deal with whistleblower complaints from across the public service, saying he has received a lot of correspondence from people in a range of jobs, who want to raise concerns.

“They have a story to tell, but they are afraid to tell it because they will jeopardise their jobs,” he said.

Mr McGuinness called for a more “comprehensive approach” from the Government in the shape of an independent office “that people can feel comfortable with, to go to in confidence with particular issues that are affecting the processes of state and its administration.”

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