The non-profit legal aid firm which recently advised the whistleblower who triggered the impeachment of US President Donald Trump is to set up an Irish arm focused on possible corruption surrounding the handling of the Covid-19 crisis.
WhistleblowerAid Ireland, a not-for profit organisation specialising in advising those making protected disclosures, has been live for a number of days but is only now announcing itself to the world.
The firm, a registered charity in the US, said it has chosen to establish its Irish presence - its first outside of its American base - for a number of reasons, not least having heard from within its network of contacts that problems may surround certain aspects of how the coronavirus pandemic has been dealt with by the Irish authorities.
That focus on the response to the virus pandemic stems from a similar campaign launched by the organisation’s US parent regarding corrupt responses to the Covid-19 crisis in an American context.
Those in Ireland who believe they may have encountered wrongdoing in either the public or private sphere regarding the virus response, which may merit the making of a protected disclosure under Irish law, may consult the agency pro bono.
Initial contacts are made through encrypted communications, either using the well-known Signal messaging app, or messages sent through the Tor dark web browser.
The firm’s co-founder, American lawyer and former National Security Agency whistleblower John N Tye, said that its focus is on providing expert advice and pointing those who believe they may have a case in the right direction.
WhistleblowerAid employs about 15 people in the US and was first established a little over three years ago.
It has partnered in an Irish context with Matthew Kenny of Dublin’s O’Sullivan Kenny Solicitors, who will initially consider all submissions made to the firm.
The organisation, which has been advertising its presence via social media channels only, has advised those who believe they should make a protected disclosure to “contact our lawyers first, as soon as possible”. “If you disclose your concerns first to your employer or others not bound to confidentiality then you are more likely to suffer retaliation,” it said.
It said it works to defend whistleblowers from retaliation, a key concern of most of those who choose to make protected disclosures, by preserving their anonymity, including by allowing the initial submission of cases on an entirely anonymous basis.
“In Ireland, we are working with a network of local solicitors, transparency advocates, and media specialists to provide free support for those reporting wrongdoing by healthcare organisations, governmental agencies, and other institutions mishandling the response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
WhistleblowerAid’s most famous case to date involves its representation of a whistleblower who brought the public’s attention to President Trump’s infamous July 2019 phone call with the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky.
That communication allegedly saw the US leader demand that Mr Zelensky investigate Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden’s ties to a Ukrainian energy company in exchange for the release of US military aid. The case eventually led to President Trump’s impeachment, a process he narrowly survived in January of this year.