Government Buildings, Merrion Street, Dublin 2
Activist Colm Roddy, a constant presence outside the Department of the Taoiseach, posts his feelings on the treatment of whistleblowers.
This afternoon’s Dáil proceedings are live here
Previously: The Man Who Can’t Be Moved
From top: Maurice McCabe; Keith Harrison; Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan and her husband Chief Superintendent James McGowan
Yo may recall the two recent protected disclosures sent to the Tanaiste and Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald.
They were reportedly sent by Sgt Maurice McCabe and Supt Dave Taylor, former head of the Garda Press Office – with Supt Taylor stating he was instrumental in the campaign to discredit Sgt McCabe.
Yesterday, Philip Ryan, on Independent.ie, reported on a meeting that took place between the two gardai in which Supt Taylor told Sgt McCabe about the campaign.
Mr Ryan reported:
Taylor said three phones, which are currently in garda custody as part of the investigation into leaks, held the evidence to back up his claims.
He said the phones contained chains of text messages outlining the plot to target McCabe by spreading vicious lies about the whistleblower and his family.
The texts were sent to senior gardai, members of the media, and prominent politicians.
The allegations could never be printed due to the defamatory nature of the claims, but they spread like wildfire in political and garda circles.
No matter how many times independent investigations proved McCabe’s claims were correct, there was always a cloud over his reputation.
Taylor told McCabe he regretted the role he played in spreading the rumours but insisted he was acting under instruction.
He claimed former garda commissioner Martin Callinan knew what was going on, as did his successor Noirin O’Sullivan, who was then a deputy commissioner.
It was further reported that, in February 2015, Ms O’Sullivan’s husband Det Supt James McGowan seized Supt Taylor’s phone and laptop two months before Supt Taylor was arrested for allegedly leaking information to a journalist in relation to a Roma child being taken into custody over fears she had been kidnapped.
On Friday, Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald appointed former High Court judge Justice Iarlaith O’Neill to review Sgt McCabe and Supt Taylor’s claims.
Further to this, the solicitor of fellow Garda whistleblower Keith Harrison, Trevor Collins spoke to Cathal MacCoille on RTE’s Morning Ireland this morning.
It came after Colm Burke, on yesterday’s This Week, reported on a letter Mr Collins sent to Ms Fitzgerald, on behalf of Mr Harrison, following the appointment of Justice O’Neill.
During the Morning Ireland interview, Mr Collins raised concerns about the scope of the new inquiry.
Cathal MacCoille: “I asked him [Trevor Collins] to outline what his client Keith Harrison’s objections to the review as proposed.”
Trevor Collins: “Well my client, two and a half years ago, Cathal, made a disclosure, a protected disclosure to, at that time, the Confidential Recipient which was later referred to GSOC and, following on from that, my client has had to endure a campaign that has been orchestrated, we believe, senior members of An Garda Siochana – the sole purpose of which has been to undermine his credibility and effectively destroy his reputation and this campaign has been endured by my client. We have made known to the minister and Tanaiste that this has been ongoing and that we’ve called upon her to take action.
“My client was astounded to learn, on Friday evening, the terms of references as they have been established in circumstances where, if you take it that, all week, the allegations that were before the Dail and that are on the Dail record that there appears to be a deliberate and high-level smear campaign against whistleblowers within An Garda Siochana, we took it that the Tanaiste would take the necessary steps to inquire into these very serious issues of public concern and it is disappointing to learn that she has chosen to, effectively, cherrypick and base any inquiry solely upon the disclosures of Sgt McCabe and Superintendent [Dave] Taylor rather than the other whistleblowers who have suffered similar treatment at the hands of An Garda Siochana.”
MacCoille: “And I know that you’ve put that view in a letter to the Minister on the 8th of October, seeking a wider review than that established – have you got any response?”
Collins: “As yet, no.”
MacCoille: “What do you make of the limitation of this inquiry, as set up by the Minister to the two protected disclosures made to her as Minister for Justice? That’s not including, obviously a disclosure from your client, Keith Harrison. Is that not a… why is that not a fair enough thing to do. If it’s on her desk, formally, a protected disclosure, why is it not reasonable for her to limit the inquiry purely to those two disclosures?”
Collins: “Well, the issue here is that, as An Tanaiste’s press release states, in her own words, she states it is vitally important that the claims that people make in disclosures are properly addressed and she states that they should be proper, just and fair to all and the rights of everyone, to fair and proper procedures have to be vindicated – these are her words. And my submission is that while we are a whistleblower and my client had made known to the Minister the serious issues that are, that he has suffered and the victimisation, the intimidation, the ostracization that is ongoing. I have outlined to her, in no uncertain terms the issues that I believe are of public concern and they have been on her desk since May, at the very least. This is the fourth or fifth time that I’ve written to the minister on this matter and to simply ignore these issues and leave my client in limbo does not vindicate his rights.”
MacCoille: “Can you give us some more detail on, without naming people obviously, on the kind of pressure you say Keith Harrison, your client, has undergone because of being a whistleblower?”
Collins: “Well what I can say, without going into detail, is he has been the subject of surveillance, he has suffered victimisation, bullying harassment, as has his family. There has been a dissemination of rumour and innuendo which has been solely designed to undermine his credibility and that has been circulated within certain members of the media, certain politicians and his Garda colleagues. And, furthermore, there’s been a deliberate frustration of GSOC’s investigations of his disclosures. The whole campaign and operation here is designed to frustrate any investigation into my client’s disclosures, to discredit him and to destroy his reputation. So that if any findings are made, that his credibility and integrity is in his question.”
MacCoille: “And it’s his belief, is it, that all of this dates back, or starts with the time in 2009 when he stopped a Garda colleague for drink driving – a charge which was subsequently dismissed in the court?”
Collins: “There was particular issues that relate from 2009 to 2014. But they are being dealt with in a separate forum. The issues that we have put before the Minister relate to the period after his disclosure, his protected disclosure became known and, following on from that, the treatment he has suffered is what has caused us serious concern. And this treatment has been dished out effectively by An Garda Siochana.”
MacCoille: “How sure can he be, given what we’ve heard several times from the Garda Commissioner [Noirin O’Sullivan] that she supports whistleblowers and would not support any campaign against him and how sure can Keith Harrison be that this was organised at a senior level, as he alleges?”
Collins: “Recently, we’ve learned of an instance where certain issues were disseminated from Garda Headquarters to members of the media. This has confirmed what…this is one of the issues, this is one of the facts that have been confirmed to our client and this is confirmed to him that what he believed to be the case is in fact true.”
MacCoille: “Confirmed by a journalist?”
Collins: “I cannot go into it any further than that, Cathal, but what I can say is that the similarities as between the whistleblowers and so far as what has been reported and the treatment, it’s, you’re talking about whistleblowers from different divisions but they’re suffering the same type of treatment.”
Collins: “This appears to be a flawed inquiry from the very outset. If Mr Justice O’Neill is unable to deal with and look into whistleblowers and their treatment, from the outset, rather than having it done in a piecemeal fashion where you’re dealing with Sgt McCabe and Supt Taylor, and their disclosures, and effectively leaving aside and not vindicating the rights of the other whistleblowers, in so far as the complaints and issues they brought to the attention of the minister.”
Listen back in full here
European Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly
The European Ombudsman, Emily O’Reilly, has opened an investigation into whether the EU administration is living up to its obligation to introduce internal whistleblowing rules. She has asked nine EU institutions, including the European Commission, Parliament, and Council, to inform her by 31 October 2014 about the rules they have in place, or intend to introduce.
She explained: “The Commission’s EU Anti-Corruption Report warns that corruption can seriously harm the economy and undermine the trust of citizens in democratic institutions. Whistleblowers play a key role in uncovering serious irregularities. I want to ensure that the EU institutions have in place the necessary rules to protect whistleblowers and to deal with complaints they submit about how they have been treated.”
Previously: Blessed Are The Whistleblowers
Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland
Are you neither tarnished nor afraid?
There’s never been a better time to blow.
Via Shell to Sea :
The Shell to Sea campaign is making a fresh call for whistleblowers to come forward to expose malpractice and corruption in the facilitation of the Shell Corrib gas project. The call comes in the wake of the publication of the Guerin report and against the backdrop of the ongoing criminalisation of protest against the imposition of the Corrib gas project in Co Mayo.
Shell to Sea spokesperson Terence Conway said: “We are calling for more whistleblowers from within the ranks of An Garda Síochána, Shell, Shell subcontractors and any State agency involved in facilitating the Corrib gas project to come forward and assist us expose the corrupt practices used to date in attempting to force through this dangerous project.”
He was speaking after yesterday’s sitting of Belmullet District Court where three Shell to Sea campaigners were appearing on charges arising from a mass protest at the main Shell work site for the construction of the onshore Corrib gas pipeline.
So far, one former Shell subcontractor – OSSL – has already come forward exposing the corrupt delivery of €35,000 of alcohol to Gardaí drafted into Mayo in 2006 to police protests.
Corrib whistleblowers may contact the Shell to Sea campaign at firstname.lastname@example.org or by using the feedback button at Shell to Sea.
I will take the opportunity in the next half hour when speaking on the Guerin Report Dáil debate to name the latest whistle-blower
— Pearse Doherty (@PearseDoherty) May 15, 2014
[From top: Dr Ciara Kelly on The Saturday Night Show at the weekend and a screengrab from the HSE’s draft contract for the Free GP Care to Children Aged Under Six]
Dr Ciara Kelly, from RTÉ’s Operation Transformation, appeared on The Saturday Night Show last Saturday and spoke to host Brendan O’Connor about Health Minister James Reilly’s free GP care for children under six initiative and specifically about Section 28.4.4 that’s in the draft contract.
Brendan O’Connor: “Ciara, you mentioned there, the Primary Care System, we were all encouraged to go to your GP so you’re not clogging up the hospitals and everything – and in fairness, it’s the only kind of non-dysfunctional part of the Health Service, in the sense that if you want to see a GP, pretty much you can see a GP, usually if you’re lucky, within an hour or two, certainly that day, or the next day, or whatever – it works.”
Dr Ciara Kelly: “It works.”
O’Connor: “Is that going to fall apart now?”
Dr Kelly: “I think so, there are two brilliant things about General Practice – one is, the same day appointment, and in fact if you’re very, very sick and you walk in, probably the instant appointment – and A&E doesn’t provide that anymore. So that, I think is a very important thing. We’re hearing about this ‘Netherland’s Model’ that we’re moving to. The average waiting time to see a GP in the Netherlands is three to four days. And don’t think it’s free there either – they pay 23.9% of their income to have that universal healthcare insurance…”
O’Connor: “They pay a quarter of their income…for their healthcare alone?”
Dr Kelly: “That’s the model we’re moving towards…”
O’Connor: “Are you sure that’s right?”
Dr Kelly: “I promise you, that’s right. Or, people maybe go to the NHS model, one to three weeks is the average waiting time for an appointment GP on the NHS. Currently, what we have in Ireland is a very rare thing – instant access to your GP. And the other thing, I would say, quickly, is that we offer an egalitarian one-tier system, which doesn’t exist in the rest of our health service.
It is the only part of the health service that when you ring up, someone doesn’t say to you, ‘Do you have VHI?’ before they give you the appointment. It doesn’t matter to me whether someone has a medical card, or they are paying money, I will see them the same way – I will see a sick patient with a medical card ahead of a well patient who is private. So, I think we throw that away at our peril, that’s a really good thing – it works.
But the last thing is the gagging clause The gagging clause is part of the ‘Under 6 Contract’ – I will never get an ‘Under 6 Contract’, because I’m grossly critical of the HSE all the time, as you may know, in The Sunday Independent. We have been gagged, they are no longer going to let us be GP advocates for our patients. They have a gagging clause to prevent whistle-blowing in that contract. So, I could never criticise the HSE without losing my contract. We have seen very recently in this country the value of whistleblowers. I will never sign a contract that prevents me, or forbids me from speaking out if I see something wrong happening to my patient, I don’t trust the HSE – Im sorry!”
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[Interim Garda Commissioner Noirín O’Sullivan at a garda reserve graduation in Templemore, Co Tipperary this morning]
During her speech at the ceremony, Ms O’Sullivan said there needs to be more accepting of internal dissent within An Garda Síochána.
Afterwards, she took questions from journalists which involved questions about the fact Garda whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe still has no access to PULSE and about reports that Gardaí sought to destroy some of the garda recordings.
She was first asked if she would have used the word ‘disgusting’ to describe the Garda whistleblowers Sgt Maurice McCabe and former Garda John Wilson – like her predecessor, former Garda Commissioner, Martin Callinan.
RTÉ News At One reported:
Nóirín O’Sullivan: “I think it was unfortunate use of the word disgusting, I think that in any organisation, that’s large and complex and as large and complex as An Garda Síochána there will be people within the organisation who will identify issues that they wish to bring to attention. And I certainly believe that those people need to be supported and we need to have mechanisms in place to ensure that they can bring those forward. Indeed they may not always be fully right but nevertheless, there may be issues which will help us to continue to improve.”
Paul Reynolds: “So you wouldn’t support his attitude towards the whistleblowers?”
O’Sullivan: “I think that the former Commissioner had a personal opinion in relation to the matter and I think he’s entitled to his opinion.”
Reynolds: “Well on the basis of that do you support the calls from politicians in Dáil Éireann that Sgt Maurice McCabe, still a serving officer, his full access to PULSE should be restored?”
O’Sullivan: “It’s a matter for review and I would like to be able to tell you more about that at the moment, but I can’t.”
Reynolds: “In relation to the tapes controversy, the recordings, there has been public criticism of that and there has been some suggestion that the gardaí may have attempted to destroy the tapes.”
O’Sullivan: “Well Paul, as you know, the Commission of Investigation has been established. Though I would like to be in a position to give you more detail in relation to that, I don’t want in any way infringe on the Commission of Investigation that has been established.”
Reynolds: “But that’s the concern, that then, it’s still left open to the possibility that the gardaí may have made attempts to destroy these tapes?”
O’Sullivan: “Again, Paul, I’m constrained in what I can say to you because of the Commission of Investigation but I think in the fullness of time that that will be explained fully.”
Eamonn Farrell/Photocall Ireland
[Labour leader Eamon Gilmore at the publication of the Government’s programmes of Dáil Reform in Government Buildings last September]
Gilmore: It would be “helpful” if Alan Shatter were to withdraw his remarks about Garda Whistleblowers
— Today FM News (@TodayFMNews) March 24, 2014
Data Protection Commissioner Billy Hawkes spoke to Richard Crowley on RTÉ News at One, following the publication of his office’s audit of data protection in An Garda Síochána from 2011 to October 2013.
Specifically, Mr Hawkes told how, during his investigation, he found incidences whereby members of Gardaí – not the whistleblowers Sgt Maurice McCabe and former Garda John Wilson – accessed the Garda profiles of certain ‘RTÉ celebrities’, passed on information to private investigators and also accessed information in the Department of Social Protection.
Richard Crowley: “This report has just been published, it’s rather long. We haven’t even seen the executive summary, so maybe you could do the job for us and tell us what are your main findings?”
Billy Hawkes: “Well the main findings are that An Gardaí are treating personal data as you would expect a professional police force to do so. They have responded to points, weaknesses we pointed out, particularly inappropriate access by members of the force to data and, even worse, disclosure of it, outside of the force. But it’s quite a comprehensive report, it goes through things like how they deal with CCTV, how they deal with suspects, the system of Garda vetting, how that works, so it’s essentially a comprehensive look at all aspects of how An Garda Síochána carry out their duties because, again, obviously personal data is the lifeblood of An Garda Síochána but it’s particularly important that how they handle it respects all of our rights in relation to the data that they hold, so that was a particular focus of it – that basically that we should be satisfied and everybody else should be satisfied that when they give information to An Garda Síochána, whether voluntarily or compulsory, that we should all be satisfied it would be guarded carefully. Only those who have needed to do so would have access to it and particularly won’t be disclosed outside the force.”
Crowley: “But how many members of the force were abusing the system?”
Hawkes: “Again, that’s, we discovered quite a number of incidences, because we did sample tests where people could not justify why they were accessing the records of certain people, including by the way, personalities within RTÉ, so basically there was a need for action there. We’re also, separately, in a separate investigation, we’re also dealing with under our own powers as data protection, we’re dealing with evidence of more active, as it were, disclosure of information from An Garda Síochána to people who have no right to receive it. But that’s a separate issue.“
Crowley: “Ok, are you talking about the two whistleblowers? Those that we call the whistleblowers?”
Hawkes: “No I’m not, I’m talking about something entirely different about disclosure from within An Garda Síochána, not in relation to whistleblowers, it’s people who had basis at all for disclosing information to third parties. So..”
Crowley: “Who? What third parties?”
Hawkins: “No, it would be people like private investigators who try to get information from Garda systems.”
Crowley: “And who tried to, or who did?”
Crowley: “On how many occasions?”
Hawkins: “Again, again, all we can do is based on a sample of what we’re dealing with, of complaints we’re dealing with. There have been such instances but the important point in this…”
Crowley: “But how many?”
Hawkins: “No, again, cause I mean, all I can deal with is the ones we know about.”
Crowley: “Ok, well, how many do you know about?”
Hawkins: “We know, I suppose all we know about would be a handful of those cases because we’re carrying out a detailed investigation into private investigators and their actions at present.”
Crowley: “But you know that, in all of those cases, the information went to specific private investigators and you know who those private investigators are..”
Hawkins: “Yeah at we’re..that particular investigation is in fact continuing. We have by no means reached the end of our investigation because it’s not only access to the Garda data it’s also access to data for example in the Department of Social Protection, so it’s more, it’s part of a broader sweep in terms of inappropriate access.”
Crowley: “Can we go back to PULSE. Are guards giving information to the media?”
Hawkins: “Well we don’t…know they do but we’re not talking about that.”
Crowley: “No, I mean from PULSE now. Are they passing information from PULSE onto the media?”
Hawkins: “No, again, that was not the focus of our investigation.”
Crowley: “Well I know it wasn’t the focus but did you come across it?”
Hawkins: “I suspect that there were incidences, and I’d be careful of what I’m saying, where that might have been happening. But, again, since I’m speaking to a journalist, I’m not going to elaborate.”
Crowley: “Now the question we’ve asked, a couple of minutes ago was how many members of An Garda Síochána have abused the system?”
Hawkins: “I don’t know that answer to that because all we could do is sample it because we did find enough for An Garda to acknowledge they had an issue here which they have addressed. They have taken disciplinary action against a number of members of the force and they have also issued clearer guidelines. They are now carrying out proactive audits which they were required to do under a code of practice which we approved for An Garda Síochána a few years back so basically we’re recording broad satisfaction with the actions they’re taking but we are going to follow up on an action plan which An Garda Síochána are putting in place to make sure that the recommendations we’ve made, to which they’re committed to, are actually carried out.”
Crowley: “But each time a guard signs on to the PULSE system and accesses specific information about a particular individual does that leave a footprint, do we know that he or she has been there?”
Hawkins: “Yes we do and that’s greatly to the credit of An Garda Síochána, they do have proper auditory rules, so you can know which member has accessed the particular record and…”
Crowley: “So then you should be able to tell me how many gardaí have abused the system surely?”
Hawkins: “No because again the people may have a, obviously the gardaí needs access to the records of people on a daily basis and it’s a question of, for example, if there’s an unusual pattern of access, if there’s no obvious reason of why a garda in one particular region is accessing data from a region other than his own. That’s where issues arise and what the gardaí have committed to is to carry out audits, which they are carrying out, to detect that sort of pattern. They have found cases where it has been happening and they’ve taken disciplinary action. So we want the message to go out, within the organisation, that that should not happen and there’s a high risk you’ll be caught if you actually are inappropriately accessing, or worse, disclosing information, outside An Garda Síochána.”
Crowley: “What were the reasons given for the members accessing information about these, let’s call them, minor celebrities and sports people and others. What was behind it?”
Hawkins: “In many cases, it was just curiosity, so there, if you like, there wasn’t anything sinister about it but nevertheless, whether you’re a celebrity or not, if you report something to An Garda Síochána, you have an expectation that it will be treated seriously, it will only be used for the purpose of whatever you’re reporting, whether it’s a burglary, attack or whatever and that it should not be accessed out of curiosity.”
Crowley: “Are you saying that you find no fault with [Sgt Maurice] McCabe and [former Garda John] Wilson?”
Hawkins: “Oh no, what we’re saying is and I really want to generalise it, because we did in fact specifically support the [Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan] Commissioner in relation to information being disclosed to the Public Accounts Committee. So, basically, our position, and my position as Commissioner, is that having focused heavily, not only in this report but also in our annual report last year on inappropriate access by gardaí to data held on the PULSE system, I had a duty to support the Commissioner when he took the position that once the whistleblowers had discharged, if you like, their moral duty to report malpractice within an gardaí, then there was not a basis for them to continue to access the PULSE system and even less so for disclosing confidential information about people to third parties.”
Listen back here
Read the Data Protection Commissioner report here
Geraldine Lynagh, of TV3, tweets from a Road Safety Authority conference in Dublin Castle this morning.