Independent anti-corruption organisation, Transparency International Ireland (TI Ireland) has called for a Garda Inspectorate inquiry to be undertaken into how Garda whistleblowers, including Sergeant Maurice McCabe, have been treated since making their disclosures.
The Inspectorate report should also assess current attitudes to whistleblowers within An Garda Síochána and formulate recommendations on the steps required to prevent the victimisation of whistleblowers within the service. In particular, it should examine a sample of cases and circumstances where Gardaí who reported malpractice allege they have faced formal or informal sanctions for doing so.
‘The O’Higgins Commission observed that Sergeant McCabe ‘had reason to believe that he was being “set up”’ and wrongly faced disciplinary action in response to concerns he raised about Garda malpractice.* The recently leaked testimony to the Commission that appeared to question the integrity and motivation of Sergeant McCabe also poses serious questions about commitments to respect and protect whistleblowers’, said John Devitt, Chief Executive of TI Ireland.
‘The O’Higgins Commission did not inquire into these matters further and it’s for this reason that we believe a more thorough examination of current management practices and whistleblower protection procedures is required.
'In the meantime, these questions can also be partly answered by the Garda Commissioner by clarifying the instructions given to her legal counsel and basis for these. She should also make it clear to all members of the service that any attempt to victimise whistleblowers or fabricate evidence against them will be met with fair but swift disciplinary action.
'Whistleblowers from every walk of life routinely face sanctions including unwarranted disciplinary action, reassignment of duties, the sharing of false and damaging information against them, unfair dismissal and other forms of maltreatment. It’s important therefore that all employers understand the essential role whistleblowers play in exposing wrongdoing and have procedures in place to prevent harm to anyone who speaks up’. Mr. Devitt added.
Since the Protected Disclosures Act 2014 was introduced, TI Ireland’s Speak Up helpline has seen a 100 per cent increase in the number of calls received from whistleblowers. The largest number of calls to date have been received from Ireland’s health services. The helpline is supported by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and includes access to free legal advice.
TI Ireland will soon launch an initiative aimed at promoting safer working environments for whistleblowers, titled Integrity at Work, which will support employers in implementing whistleblower procedures that protect them from victimisation.
TI Ireland has provided support and advice to Sergeant Maurice McCabe since 2012. Its Speak Up helpline has assisted over 700 people since 2011. The report on its first four years’ activities is available at http://transparency.ie/news_events/transparency-international-ireland-launches-first-speak-report-whistleblower-helpline
Free whistleblowing guidance and an introductory video to the Protected Disclosures Act is available at http://transparency.ie/helpline/guides
Free confidential support and access to free legal advice for whistleblowers is available by Freephone 1800 844 866, Monday to Friday, 10am to 6pm. More information is available at www.speakup.ie.
*Page 23, Commission of Investigation into Certain Matters relative to the Cavan/Monaghan Division of the Garda Síochána