Q&A: The long and winding road from Bailieboro to the O’Higgins report

If you're wondering how we got to where we are now, Michael Clifford breaksdown the main points from the continuing controversy surrounding the Garda Commissioner, whistleblower Maurice McCabe and the O’Higgins report

How did we get here?

A long and winding road from Bailieboro, Co Cavan. Sergeant Maurice McCabe was station sergeant there. In 2007/2008 he made a whole series of claims of malpractice, shoddy work, and poor policing in the area.

Time and again he met brick walls in trying to have these matters addressed.

Eventually, he handed a dossier to Micheál Martin in 2014, which ultimately led to the setting up of the O’Higgins Commission of Investigation, which reported a week ago, after some choice leaking.

Mr Justice Kevin O’Higgins sang the praises of Sgt McCabe, but his report was contradictory in places.

While he found against Sgt McCabe in some instances, his findings in relation to the various cases where crime victims were badly served, were in line with the sergeant claims.

This the penalty points fella?

The very same. He and former garda John Wilson made complaints about senior gardaí abusing the penalty points system. Eventually after much persistence, their claims were validated, they were vindicated, and major change in the system was undertaken.

And what about the then justice minister Alan Shatter and the then Garda commissioner Martin Callinan?

Both left in 2014 while mired in various controversies, including those involving Sgt McCabe and Mr Wilson.

Mr Callinan had dug a hole for himself by describing the actions of the pair as “disgusting” at an Oireachtas committee.

Months later, his political capital severely depleted, he retired after a nudge from Taoiseach Enda Kenny.

Mr Shatter resigned as minister for justice six weeks later, when the Guerin report — a scoping inquiry that led to the setting up of the O’Higgins Commission — reported that he had not acted properly in dealing with Sgt McCabe’s claims. Judge O’Higgins ultimately cleared Mr Shatter, but it was two years too late.

The former minister spent a large part of last week relating his own personal victim impact statement to the media.

Very confusing. Now we have Garda commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan in the headlines.

Yep. Last Friday, the Irish Examiner reported that at the commission, Ms O’Sullivan’s counsel said he was under instruction to attack Sgt McCabe’s integrity and motivation.

This was despite the commissioner publicly praising Sgt McCabe and even promoting him seven months before the commission hearing.

But why wasn’t that reported at the time?

Commissions of investigation operate behind closed doors. Somebody might have thought that word would never get out that she was adopting that legal strategy towards Sgt McCabe.

And now?

She’s under political pressure to explain. She did issue a statement last Monday where she accepted Sgt McCabe had not acted out of malice, but that did not really address the main issues in any meaningful way.

And what if she doesn’t?

Then she will either resign or the whole thing will be swept under a carpet.

Your bet?

The latter.

What will that mean for the force?

No change. As you were in a culture where the first instinct is to circle the wagons. Once that is done everybody simply gets stuck into hunting down the whistleblower and rendering him useless.

No way to run a police force?

Talk to the politicians. For years they have been happy to facilitate such a culture.

More on this topic

Number of Garda whistleblowers in single figures, Commissioner tells Policing AuthorityNumber of Garda whistleblowers in single figures, Commissioner tells Policing Authority

Garda Commissioner denies she was aware of car park meeting between Callinan and McGuinessGarda Commissioner denies she was aware of car park meeting between Callinan and McGuiness

Sinn Féin seeks answers over John McGuinness meeting with Martin CallinanSinn Féin seeks answers over John McGuinness meeting with Martin Callinan

Clarification sought on garda whistleblower storiesClarification sought on garda whistleblower stories


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