Garda whistleblower scandal: Swimming in murky waters

Former justice minister Frances Fitzgerald

IT is essential that cabinet members are credible when they speak in the Dáil but the level of dishonesty and scandal uncovered in An Garda Síochana is so startling that resolving those issues must almost take precedence over any other issue in that sphere. 

Despite that, it is difficult to accept the suggestion from Foreign Minister Simon Coveney that a claim that the Taoiseach gave inaccurate information about the depth of knowledge former justice minister Frances Fitzgerald had in relation to a strategy to discredit Sgt Maurice McCabe is “not a big issue”. Indeed it is. After all, if Ms Fitzgerald knew of the plan but did not intervene that must be seen as tacit approval. How else might Garda management regard the minister’s silence?

Mr Varadkar told the Dáil that Ms Fitzgerald only became aware when the strategy became public in 2016. However, on Monday that was contradicted by the Department of Justice who said Ms Fitzgerald and the department knew of a “clash between the garda and legal teams” in May 2015 but not the detail. That no-details caveat leaves some wriggle room but if — a big “if” — Ms Fitzgerald tried but failed to have tactics changed it raises further questions about garda accountability.

These are murky waters that may yet drown some of those who swim in them but the over-riding objective must be re-establishing garda credibility — especially as we will never have a chance to vote them out of office.

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