A garda who made complaints of malpractice says he has been subject to intimidation and harassment, including having a minor incident between him and his wife referred to Tusla, writes Michael Clifford.
John is a Garda whistleblower whose identity is not being made known here because of the involvement of his children in the following narrative.
The details of his case have been known to Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald for the last six months and the Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan for at least a year.
He says he has been subject to different forms of intimidation and harassment since he made complaints of malpractice. His partner is referred to here as Jane. They have young children.
On October 5, 2013, Jane was invited to attend her local Garda station. There had been an incident between her and John some weeks previously. There was no physical violence involved in the incident. A garda had been called to the scene, but the call was not made by either John or Jane.
At the station, she was interviewed for eight hours. Jane says she was put under pressure to sign a statement. She claims there was a threat that if she didn’t there may be repercussions for her and her children.
Five days later, a senior officer completed a Notification of Suspected Child Abuse in relation to the couple’s children to be dispatched to Tusla. The suspected abuse was of an emotional nature, allegedly perpetrated on one of the children through being “present during argument between mother and partner”, according to the notification.
On October 16, a letter from Tusla stated that the notification was received. “However as there is no evidence of abuse detailed no further action will be taken from this service until we receive more information.”
No further information was received to the best of John and Jane’s knowledge. Some time after that, Jane contacted the gardaí and withdrew the statement she had made.
Jane claims that when she retracted the statement, she was told by a garda she should think hard about doing so as another couple in a similar situation where a statement had been made and withdrawn subsequently had the social services “knocking on their door”.
On February 2, 2014, the couple received another letter from Tusla, inviting them to a meeting on the basis of the information that had been received the previous October.
The couple attended the meeting with two Tusla employees where it was agreed that the argument that the couple had had was the type not unfamiliar to couples in general. There, the couple thought, the matter rested.
Later that evening, Jane says she received a phone call from one of the Tusla employees who the couple had met. This woman stated she had been informed by her superior that a home call would now be required.
According to Jane, the Tusla employee stated that this new instruction came about after a garda had rang her superior. This was a different outcome from that agreed earlier at the meeting.
The Tusla employee attended the house the next day and interviewed the children. The meeting was cordial and without rancour. The Tusla employee then compiled a report on the whole case, the final paragraph of which read: “It is important to note that given the nature of the referral…[the agency] made a decision that it was not in the children’s best interests to bring up the issue in the family home which led to the referral.
"This is based on the fact that the incident occurred in September 2013 and on [John] and [Jane’s] explanation on what happened in the context of the incident. It is likely [child’s name] may not remember the incident and even if she did the revisiting of a one off incident would not be beneficial to her and places unnecessary emphasis on what occurred.”
The couple had been put through four months of stress and worry over what both regarded as a minor incident. The extent to which Tusla investigated the original referral appears to lack any proportionality to the incident.
John and Jane are both of the belief that the whole affair is linked to the complaints of malpractice he has made.
Neither Tusla nor the gardaí will comment on individual cases for reasons of confidentiality.
Meanwhile, the Garda commissioner has been aware of this case and the allegations borne by John and Jane for at least a year.
The Minister for Justice has been aware of these details since last October. The garda or his representative have sent at least 13 letters to the minister outlining what John says he has been subjected to. Last week, a solicitor acting for the couple wrote to the Minister for Children with the details.
“The manner of the intervention of Tusla in our client’s family life is a cause of concern and is by any measure an inexcusable abuse of their position. Their intervention caused our client untold stress, distress and anguish.”
The couple is seeking to have a number of questions answered:
Labour party TD Alan Kelly, who has been made aware of this case in recent days, told the Irish Examiner he finds it incredible that Ms Fitzgerald didn’t join up the dots after she was contacted by Minisiter Katherine Zappone about the McCabe case, which also involved Tusla.
“Minister Fitzgerald had in her possession letters from a second whistleblower from October last year which outlined similar cause for concern about how Tusla had treated him. We now have two cases of whistle-blowers and Tusla, yet the minister was incapable of joining up the dots. That’s either negligence or more probably incompetence.”
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