The first time Garda whistle-blower Sergeant Maurice McCabe’s concerns of serious malpractice and alleged cover-ups in the force gained public attention, former Garda commissioner Martin Callinan retired after a late-night knock on the door, writes Fiachra Ó Cionnaith.
When the questions came again, it was ex-justice minister Alan Shatter’s turn to fall on his sword.
Department of Justice secretary general Brian Purcell and Garda Confidential recipient Oliver Connolly soon followed when given the nod to have their own hara kiri moment.
And after a week that has once more seen the same questions return to centre stage, current Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan and Taoiseach Enda Kenny are facing the real prospect of suffering a similar demise.
Sgt McCabe’s legitimate questions, however, still remain unanswered.
And while the political fallout from the Garda whistleblower crisis is understandably taking up almost all of the limelight, this fact remains a scandal within a scandal which still needs to be addressed.
At this stage, four years after his concerns became public and 11 years after some of them were first made, Sgt McCabe — who has never sought retirements, resignations and the ends of careers — still does not know who, if anyone, was behind the alleged smear campaign against his name.
He does not know whether the incident was triggered by his complaint against a Garda colleague in 2006, by his raising of issues over penalty points, or about further revelations which have led to demands to reform the entire Garda force.
He does not know if the Facebook videos of gardaí playing with a stuffed rat called “Maurice” at the height of the furore in 2014 and 2015 were highly inappropriate, ill-coloured jokes or part of a wider strategy.
He does not know if former chief Garda press officer Dave Taylor is correct in his strongly disputed allegation that senior officers including Garda Commissioner Ms O’Sullivan knew of the smear campaign.
He does not know if the entirely false Tusla allegations were simply a “copy-and-paste” error by an unwitting counsellor or something far more sinister.
And crucially, despite the Fennelly, O’Higgins, Guerin, and O’Neill reports, he and his family are still suffering from the nightmare from which they are yet to wake.
On Tuesday, as the latest stage of the Garda whistle-blower scandal began to bite hard on the heels of a fleeing Taoiseach, Sgt McCabe outlined six key questions which he wants answered on the Tusla controversy.
- Whether a meeting sought by the HSE with gardaí in 2013 took place.
- Who was the garda or gardaí who engaged in phone conversations with a HSE counsellor about the false rape allegation?
- Who interviewed the alleged victim in respect of that allegation in May 2014 as claimed by her solicitor?
- Was any of the foregoing Garda activity reported or recorded within the force?
- Was any of the foregoing Garda activity notified formally or informally to senior gardaí at commissioner level, and if not, why not?
- Was any decision made not to inform Sgt McCabe of the 2013 allegation and if so, why and by whom?
However, in keeping with tradition on the whistle-blower affair, he has yet to receive any answers.
The ongoing political fallout from Sgt McCabe’s attempts to reveal the full extent of problems within An Garda Síochána is understandably — and correctly — receiving significant attention this weekend.
However, the inability of the State to give answers to Sgt McCabe’s concerns — which remain at the centre of the scandal — should not be ignored.
Even if Enda Kenny announces his decision to resign in the coming days, that troubling reality will remain in place.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved