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May the force be with us and abide by the law

An Garda Síochána are in meltdown with the ‘retirement’ of Nóirín O’Sullivan. Change seems to be near impossible in a police force compromised by their loyalty to one another. 

There seems to be a meerkat culture in the organisation where it is a one-for-all and all-for-one culture. But as soon as one falls out with the group, they isolate and ostracise. This is what happened to whistleblower Sergeant Maurice McCabe, who was completely justified in bring forward allegations — one which have subsequently proved to have substantial merit with the endemic falsification of breath tests and penalty-point skewing scandals.

The Garda Síochána crush whistle-blowers because they think the force is beyond reproach and can do no wrong. The Garda has not yet learned to police itself. It circles the wagons, but it does no good at all.

There is a rotten culture in certain quarters of the organisation. Not all gardaí are bad, but when one of them takes issue with corrupt practices, a mechanism kicks into place to quieten them.

The attempt to smear Maurice McCabe with a sex scandal is proof of how low the force will go.

An Garda Síochána is not infallible, it is not an authority above all authorities. It has been extensively criticised in reports as a ‘insular’ organisation. It is a public body receiving public money and must be fully answerable. There can be no arrogance from public servants, they are there to serve us, not the other way around.

Radical reform and transformation need to take place.

It should be armed, at least in Dublin, given the surge in gangland crime. It should be properly funded and have immediate access to funds — fully accountable to the PAC — in case of emergency. There should be strict internal affairs procedures, and a special commissioner appointed by the Department of Justice, independent of the force, when allegations are made, that only answers to the government and has all access to Garda files and personnel, without exception. Whistleblowers should be sequestered and put on a separate payroll while any investigation is going on, and given special protection.

There is no future in a bottomless pit of cover up and denial by those in authority. Those who enforce the law must abide by it.

Maurice Fitzgerald


Co Cork

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