[Enda Kenny, top and David Farrell, professor of politics at University College Dublin,above]
Mr Farrell spoke to Mary Wilson on Drivetime earlier in relation to the ongoing refusal of Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan to withdraw his ‘disgusting’ remark concerning Garda whistleblowers Sgt Maurice McCabe and John Wilson.
It followed comments made earlier today by Taoiseach Enda Kenny that criticisms of Mr Callinan by senior ministers – namely Fine Gael’s Leo Varadkar and Labour’s Eamon Gilmore, Joan Burton and Pat Rabbitte – should be made within the Cabinet and not in public.
Mr Farrell spoke to Ms Wilson about the current legislation to protect whistleblowers that is going through the Dáil.
Mary Wilson: “You can put a piece of legislation on the statute books but changing a culture has to start at the top?”
David Farrell: “It does. It has to start from the top and it doesn’t require, however tired he may be, the Taoiseach of the day to reveal his irritation on a radio interview. I mean for the Taoiseach downwards we should have a clear understanding that this legislation has to be taken seriously. A whistleblower is doing something that’s going to annoy his or her colleagues because you’re upsetting the, you know, an organisation that’s up and running and operating for, the most part, properly. But, unfortunately, from time to time, the rules are broken, the procedures aren’t followed. And a whistleblower has to be allowed the space to be able to, as I said, blow their whistle. And it requires the senior management from line management and above to accept that, unfortunately, now and again, truths have to be told that may not be terribly convenient.”
Wilson: “You were writing in the Irish Times, at the weekend, you were writing about the Government’s much trumpeted democratic revolution. You said it requires change on three fronts. Outline them for us.”
Farrell: “The big agenda here is openness and transparency. A government that is in a 21st century mode and is trying to show itself as, you know, a government that is up there with the best international practice has to follow an agenda of openness and transparency. And that requires three pillars of which we’ve just discussed. One, the whistleblower legislation, the second of those is the register of lobbyists and the third of those is freedom of information. And, in fairness, this government is bringing forward legislation in all three of those areas, not always perfect but it’s taking a very, very long time for far too long. Until those pieces of legislation are up on the statute books and those implemented properly we will not have the sort of revolution that we were being promised three years ago.”
Wilson: “Do you feel let down?”
Wilson: “You feel that this goverment came to power promising that openness, that transparency and let down, why? Maybe because we’re waiting too long or because they’re not leading from the front on this?”
Farrell: “It’s all of that but they’re certainly not leading from the front. It’s hard to believe the scenario that this government was presented with. The Opposition decimated, the biggest majority in the history of the State, a manifesto that had the economic mess, number one priority, but the democratic revolution, number two priority. All the parties in the Opposition agreeing with the governing parties that we need to make dramatic changes to how politics is being run. You could not have had the better seed ground for serious change that this government has been presented with and this is an historic opportunity that they are seriously missing right now.”
Wilson: “Brendan Howlin, the minister for public expenditure, he said this new legislation will be world class. Do you accept that?”
Farrell: “I’m prepared to accept that.”
Wilson: “OK. But you know we’ve just been saying, you know, employers and society needs to be prepared then for whatever comes out in the wash, once you’ve got legislation like this in place and people have to stand by the legislation.”
Farrell: “That’s right and what we need is you know good practice from the top down, so we certainly need a Garda Commissioner..”
Wilson: “The top down of corporate Ireland or the top of Government Ireland.”
Farrell: “Top of Government Ireland, we need to start with the top of Government Ireland, so we need all the ministers of our Government to be speaking from the same page and they’re currently not.”
Wilson: “But just come back then, just before we finish, we’ve had Leo Varadkar, joined now by the Tánaiste and by Pat Rabbitte and by Joan Burton saying that ‘the Garda Commissioner should walk back and withdraw those comments on the whistleblowers’ and then we have the Taoiseach saying ‘we should keep this in the family, keep it in private around the cabinet table’. Is the Taoiseach wrong on this one?”
Farrell: “I can understand, I mean the Taoiseach is thinking, you know, about cabinet collectivity. A decision was taken in cabinet and that’s the end of it, and that’s the way cabinet government runs in our country, like in other countries but, as I said earlier on, we don’t need an irritated Taoiseach right now. We need a Taoiseach who’s going to actually say ‘Ok, folks, we weren’t at our best here, we need to reflect on errors that have been made in this situation’. The Garda Inspectorate report has shown this, that there have been serious errors and the Garda Commissioner should now be told: you need to withdraw your remark, that’s an inappropriate remark to have made.”
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