Justice for the man who took on the law

Maurice McCabe has settled his claim against the State, but denial of events by some should act as a warning that there could be another case like his, says Michael Clifford.

Justice for the man who took on the law

In 2017, Lorraine McCabe prepared a statement for her husband’s legal action against the State, which was settled yesterday.

In it, she gave a flavour of how her family’s lives had been upended since Maurice had complained about malpractice in An Garda Siochána.

“In 1993, I married a decent, honourable and, above all, an honest man. For the last nine years, because of these admirable traits and his decision to challenge the system for all the right reasons, his life has, intentionally, relentlessly and systematically, been rendered intolerable for him at every turn.

“This has had a profound and very destructive effect on me, my children, my marriage, and on our life as a family.”

Prior to 2008, the McCabes had been a typical garda family. Most of their friends were guards. Much of their social life revolved around Maurice’s colleagues. They didn’t stand out from the ranks.

Maurice’s career was on an upward trajectory.

Later, four superintendents with whom he worked closely between 2004 and 2008, when he was station sergeant in Bailiboro, Co Cavan, would speak of his professionalism in effusive terms.

In December 2006, the daughter of a garda colleague made a historic allegation against Maurice McCabe.

It was found to be without substance.

Ten months before the allegation, Sergeant McCabe had reported the girl’s father for being drunk at the scene of a suicide. The father was disciplined.

He and his daughter have always maintained the two events were unconnected, but the McCabes believe otherwise.

The investigation into the allegation was conducted properly and found there was no case to answer, which was fully endorsed by the DPP.

However, Sergeant McCabe felt that he had not received the support he deserved.

As a result, his authority with rank-and-file members might have been weakened. He observed shoddy work, poor standards, undisciplined behaviour.

In March 2008, he made complaints about criminal investigations.

Suddenly, this man who had dreamed of being a guard, who was dedicated to the job, a guard’s guard, found himself outside the tent. And, thereafter, his life was thrown into turmoil.

“One of the most difficult episodes for me was when Maurice was so low that he was admitted into St John of God’s for help,” Lorraine McCabe wrote.

I will never forget the desperation I felt that night, after leaving him and driving home alone and wondering how I could shield the children from this.

He endured rumours that his marriage had ended. Others that he was having an affair.

Darker mutterings tried to portray him preying on children. He was regarded as a rat and branded as such.

At a gathering of guards on one occasion, a member was reported to have said that what Maurice McCabe needed was a bullet in the head.

A complaint was made, but nothing came of it. Nobody wanted to draw attention to what might be going on behind the blue wall.

He was subjected to a disciplinary inquiry into a missing computer, seized from a child-abusing priest.

He had nothing to do with it, but had a finding been made against him, compliant media figures could have put it out there that the whistleblower had a fatal character flaw.

“All of the usual family events and celebrations, since this began, have been impacted in one way or another by the situation in which Maurice has been placed.

“In addition to the general pall cast over any celebration by virtue of what has been going on in Maurice’s work life, simple things, like choice of venues for family events, were also influenced by what was happening.”

The waves began to wash through Leinster House in 2013.

Now, the whistleblower was bringing his complaints of malpractice in road policing to an Oireachtas committee.

Lorraine and Maurice McCabe
Lorraine and Maurice McCabe

The rumour machine had it that this turbulent sergeant was either crazy or crazed.

John McGuinness, the chair of the Public Accounts Committee, heard the rumours before he met McCabe in late 2013.

They met in a hotel, where McCabe laid out the malpractice that he had uncovered.

“I’ve listened to you for 40 minutes, and you’re not mad and you’re not bad,” McGuinness told him.

McCabe nodded. He knew the kind of rumours that were being wielded against him.

In the years that followed, high-flying political and policing careers tumbled in the whirlwind generated by the McCabe case.

A scurrilous allegation of child rape was erroneously generated in Tusla.

Of all the errors that could have been perpetrated against all the men in all the country, and this one had to fall on the whistleblower.

The man himself overstepped the mark a few times with erroneous allegations about senior management.

Under pressure, he didn’t get everything exactly right, but enough that two judicial inquiries painted him in glowing terms as a member who had done the State considerable service.

“I have been continually concerned for Maurice’s welfare while at work,” Lorraine wrote.

I have been equally fearful, at times, that he may never come home. No wife should ever have to live from day to day with such stress, taking comfort only when her husband walks through the door.

“Now, when all of this is over, I worry about the future and will we ever recover from the trauma of it all.”

Their future began yesterday, with the settlement and final parting-of-ways with An Garda Síochána. The terms of the settlement are believed to be generous in monetary value.

However much the McCabes have received, it certainly won’t be enough to buy back the stolen years.

The first draft of the history of the Maurice McCabe story has been written.

Judges, leading politicians, the current commissioner, have all lauded his service and the effect that it might have on the reform of An Garda Síochána.

This opinion is widely shared among the public, many of whom remain disturbed at what he and his family have suffered.

There are others who cling to embers of discontent. A small number of individuals in politics, policing, and the media will still try to tell you that McCabe is a bad ’un.

They can’t accept that they got it so wrong back in the days when they bought into the notion that this turbulent sergeant was either mad or bad.

Their continued denial should be warning enough to the rest of us that there could easily be another Maurice McCabe, sometime in the future, or even out there right now.

Michael Clifford is the author of A Force For Justice: The Maurice McCabe story.

More in this section

News Wrap

A lunchtime summary of content highlights on the Irish Examiner website. Delivered at 1pm each day.

Sign up

Our Covid-free newsletter brings together some of the best bits from irishexaminer.com, as chosen by our editor, direct to your inbox every Monday.

Sign up