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The majority of An Garda Siochana do a great job. They can find their lives in danger and have seen the loss of brave colleagues.
Like all organisations, it has good standards, but a few of these may slip and that is why some of its members sometimes feel the need to speak out.
It would have been good on grounds of transparency if Justice O’Higgins included in his commission of inquiry’s otherwise good report on how counsel for the Garda Commissioner at the start of the inquiry said he was under instruction to strongly question the integrity, motivation and credibility of Garda Sgt Maurice McCabe on his allegations of malpractice by members of the force.
Counsel for the Commissioner later said he misinterpreted the instructions and integrity was not included.
At some point in the inquiry an attempt was made to tarnish the garda’s character with an allegation on what he said at a meeting to two senior garda officers in 2008 — an allegation which was withdrawn at the inquiry, when a private tape recording Sgt McCabe made of that meeting was given by him to the inquiry, which transcribed it.
It showed he did not say what was alleged. This was not in the report.
The O’Higgins report did find in support of Sgt McCabe: that he acted out of genuine and legitimate concerns... has shown courage, and performed a genuine public service at considerable personal cost.
Another Garda Commissioner is at the moment under a cloud — fairly or unfairly — over this case, unresolved for eight years until the O’Higgins Report in May 2016.
The role of the media proved itself again, when the Irish Examiner reported on that incident at the inquiry, leaked to the newspaper. RTÉ also did fine programmes of investigation in the last two years, because of whistle-blowers, leading to government action.
The first minister in the last government to publicly support garda whistle-blowers like Sgt McCabe was then Fine Gael Minister for Health, Leo Varadkar, who said issues needed to be looked at.
President John F Kennedy said in January. 1961: “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.”
Some may mock the words, but is what whistle-blowers try to do.
JFK’s book Profiles in Courage was on past American politicians who spoke out at cost to themselves. The battle to do the right thing goes on.
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