Sgt McCabe should not continue to be penalised for telling the truth
Dublin, 25 March 2014
Transparency International Ireland (TI Ireland) has welcomed Commissioner Martin Callinan’s decision to resign today after he refused to withdraw remarks describing the actions of two Garda whistleblowers as ‘disgusting’. However, the anti-corruption organisation has now called on Minister for Justice, Alan Shatter, to also correct statements he made in public about Sgt Maurice McCabe and retired Garda John Wilson.
‘The record needs to be set straight. Both the Comptroller and Auditor General and Garda Inspectorate have vindicated the whistleblowers by exposing weak controls and widespread abuse in the management of PULSE. It’s also significant that the Garda Inspectorate and Minister for Transport have recognised the contribution of both men in bringing this abuse to public attention. It’s time that the Minister for Justice recognises this too. Any Government statement should acknowledge the contribution the whistleblowers have made to the public interest, and also apologise for the impact that the long-running controversy has had on the whistleblowers and their families’, said John Devitt, Chief Executive of TI Ireland.
Minister Shatter told the Dáil in October 2013 that Maurice McCabe and John Wilson had failed to cooperate with a Garda inquiry into the cancellation of penalty points led by Assistant Commissioner John O’Mahoney. Records and correspondence from Garda management as well as the two men show that this statement was untrue. Earlier this month, the Minister also told RTE news that Sgt McCabe had shared information from the Garda PULSE database with members of the public. Sgt McCabe denies that he ever shared information with anyone other than departmental officials and members of the Oireachtas.
‘It’s no fault of Maurice or John that this controversy has run on as long as it has. If the allegations of abuse had been dealt with properly when they were first brought to the attention of Garda management, and had both the Minister and former Commissioner not sought to discredit the allegations and whistleblowers, the whole issue would have been resolved a long time ago’, Mr Devitt added.
TI Ireland has also called for the reinstatement of Sgt McCabe’s right to use the PULSE database without having to request prior permission from a senior officer. The former Garda Commissioner had limited Sgt McCabe’s access to PULSE in December 2012 after Sgt McCabe had collected evidence of abuse in the management of the database.
‘The continued refusal to allow Sgt McCabe access to PULSE is denying his right to do his job properly. He is a Garda with almost thirty years’ experience and an unblemished professional record. Yet he has less access to the PULSE database than a Garda trainee. This doesn’t just prevent him from doing his work, it also sends the message to other Gardaí that Sgt McCabe is not to be trusted. The denial of access is a form of penalisation and it should be revoked immediately’, Mr Devitt said.
TI Ireland is supporting calls for the introduction of an independent Garda Authority that would serve the role in appointing and overseeing the work of senior Gardaí, as well as greater powers and resources for the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission.
Last week TI Ireland wrote to the office of the Data Protection Commissioner Billy Hawkes to clarify criticism of the Garda whistleblowers during an interview with RTE News. TI Ireland believes his interview gave the inaccurate impression that the whistleblowers were in breach of the Data Protection Act and that they had accessed PULSE unlawfully. His office has declined to issue a statement making it clear that at no time did either whistleblower share personal data with members of the public and that they did not access PULSE to download further evidence after Assistant Commissioner O'Mahoney's investigation was launched.
TI Ireland, through its Speak Up helpline, has been providing advice and support to the Garda whistleblowers since 2012. It is satisfied that the two men acted lawfully and responsibly in sharing information about irregularities in the management of Garda records.
For media queries please contact John Devitt at 01 871 943401 871 9434. Sgt McCabe is unavailable for comment or interview. John Wilson has also advised that he is unavailable for radio or TV interview due to ill-health.