A letter sent on April 6, 2011, gives an insight into the “sheer hell” a member of An Garda Síochána was suffering in the pursuit of justice, and the obstacles that would force even the bravest of souls to give up.
Lorraine McCabe wrote to the since-resigned justice minister, Alan Shatter, outlining what her family was enduring as a result of her husband Sgt Maurice McCabe’s efforts to have malpractice in An Garda Síochána investigated.
She described how he had received a death threat but that she would not let her husband report it because she was afraid of the repercussions.
She referred to the “hurt, stress, annoyance, severe damage, and sheer hell on our family and our family life”.
The reply came a week later from Mr Shatter’s private secretary acknowledging the seriousness of the matter.
However, like all the complaints that Sgt McCabe made about malpractice in the force, it was referred back to the Garda commissioner to deal with. And, like so many of others, it ran into the sand.
The details of the incident are chilling. Mrs McCabe wrote once again a month later: “I had asked the minister and your office for some help and received none at all.”
Even at that point, a cry for help for intervention from outside the force went unheeded in the highest office concerned with the administration of justice.
Over the following three years, the scales began to tip Sgt McCabe’s way. His persistence, and the support of his family, drove him on to ensure that the truth would eventually out.
The culmination of that campaign came yesterday with the publication of the Guerin report. It portrays a man at the centre of a Kafkaesque nightmare repeatedly attempting to have his concerns addressed, and repeatedly being beaten back by forces that wanted him to shut up and go away.
The report compiled by senior counsel Seán Guerin portrays a litany of malpractice and resistance to Sgt McCabe’s endeavours at every level within the force. It also highlighted elements of the “hell” referred to by Mrs McCabe.
His complaints were dealt with locally at first, but usually by “inexperienced, probationary gardaí” with “delay” a common feature.
The impression, according to Mr Guerin, was that complaints were put through a “process of filtration” so that any matter of concern had been removed “as a form of impurity” and only what was good was found to remain.
Sgt McCabe then began to approach political authorities and wrote to Mr Shatter in June 2011, saying he had “lost all faith” in the gardaí to investigate complaints and was being “ostracised”.
In correspondence over the following two years, the response of the minister was “invariably” to refer issues back to the Garda authorities, whose advice was “accepted without question”, Mr Guerin said.
In this regard, Mr Shatter did not perform the independent statutory role required of him — a conclusion that must have left him in little doubt that he had to resign. The whistleblower, Mr Guerin concluded, “like the referee from whom he gets his name, is seen as someone who is not on the team”. The challenge of “accommodating and learning from legitimate criticism is always going to be a difficult one”, he said.
Despite this, and the strong vindication of his actions, the man who blew the whistle has still not been permitted access the Garda Pulse system to properly do his job, something that the new Justice Minister, Frances Fitzgerald, pictured left, yesterday raised with the interim Garda commissioner.
Speaking last night, Sgt McCabe was typically understated.
“I welcome the report. I haven’t fully read it yet, but it would appear that I have been totally vindicated. It’s a weight off the shoulders of our family and now we can move on.”
Statements on Sgt Maurice McCabe from various superintendents for Bailieborough District between 2003 and 2010:
“I found Sgt McCabe to be very positive and energetic in his position. He displayed a strong work ethic with a strong emphasis in community policing and to providing a high standard of policing to the community.”
— Chief Superintendent Gabriel McIntyre
“I found Sgt McCabe to be capable and enthusiastic in his approach to his duties. At all times I found him to be efficient... I would assess his performance very positively... He understood the need to keep the district officer advised of all matters requiring attention at superintendent level.”
— Detective Superintendent Eugene Corcoran [now Det Chief Supt at CAB]
“I considered Sgt McCabe to be an excellent sergeant and member of An Garda Síochána. He offered 200% commitment and was one of my most reliable members in the district. I relied on him, I trusted him implicitly and I listened to his advice... He was full of enthusiasm with a very positive attitude. I was aware that he worked hard and long hours displaying absolute loyalty and commitment to An Garda Síochána, to the management team in the district, to his colleagues, and to the people of Bailieborough.”
— Retired Superintendent Liam Hogan
“I found [Sgt McCabe] to be efficient, flexible, and committed. He was diligent in the performance of his duties. He encouraged and directed those under his supervision and had a good working relationship with the other sergeants.”
— Superintendent Maura Lernihan
Seán Guerin said the Byrne-McGinn report [the internal Garda investigation] found: “No malice on the part of Sgt McCabe is established in the making of his various complaints... The time I have spent with Sgt McCabe in the course of extensive interviews has led me to no different conclusion. That said, the better view... is likely to be the testimony of the men and women who worked with Sgt McCabe in the years before he made the complaints that have been examined in this report.”
— Cormac O’Keeffe