Garda whistleblower scandal

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In 2014, material revealed by two Garda Síochána (Irish police) whistleblowers, Maurice McCabe and John Wilson, as well as the handling of the material and of the whistleblowers, led directly to the resignation of Ireland's then Minister for Justice and Equality, Alan Shatter. It was also part of the background leading up to the resignation of the Garda Commissioner, Martin Callinan. It was also part of the reason for the retirement of his successor Nóirín O'Sullivan.

The ensuing scandal has helped contribute to:

  • the resignation of Martin Callinan as Garda Commissioner in March 2014.[1]
  • the vindication of Gemma O'Doherty, the journalist fired by the Irish Independent for her pursuit of the story.[2]
  • the resignation of Alan Shatter as Minister for Justice and the vindication of McCabe in May 2014, when Shatter admitted to McCabe's role in his resignation.[3][4]
  • the establishment of an independent Garda authority.
  • plans for a “new era of policing”, according to the Irish government.[5]
  • an apology from the Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, in the Dáil for "the issues that he [Maurice McCabe] raised and for the fact that his raising these matters wasn’t dealt with more speedily in the first instance."[6][7]
  • the resignation of Nóirín O'Sullivan as Garda Commissioner in September 2017.[8]
  • the resignation of Taniste Frances Fitzgerald over her handling of emails regarding the scandal.[9]

It was one of a number of incidents at the time involving the Gardaí and the then Minister for Justice and Equality.


Maurice McCabe[edit]

Maurice McCabe is a Garda Sergeant, recognised for being a whistleblower on corruption within An Garda Síochána, Ireland's national police force.

McCabe was station sergeant in Bailieborough, County Cavan. After becoming concerned about an investigation into a serious assault he made a complaint, then some more, a number of which were upheld. After McCabe made use of the "confidential recipient" system to express his concerns, his district superior ordered him to cease use of the Garda Pulse system on 14 December 2012. McCabe had used the system to examine files linked to large-scale abuse of the penalty points system. On 30 December, two senior officers officially travelled from Westmeath to his house in Cavan, an unheard-of event in the force, to tell him they were restricting his access to the Pulse system.[10]

McCabe later approached Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Transport Minister Leo Varadkar, who passed details on to Justice Minister Alan Shatter. Shatter asked for an internal garda inquiry into the penalty points complaints, with Assistant Commissioner John O'Mahoney failing to even interview McCabe. A letter from McCabe, read onto the Oireachtas record, said the way the matter had been handled had "destroyed me, my career and my family".[10] Shatter later wrongly accused McCabe of refusing to co-operate with his inquiry, a claim for which McCabe unsuccessfully sought an apology.[11][12]

Luke 'Ming' Flanagan, at the time a TD, suggested McCabe be appointed Callinan's successor as Garda Commissioner.[13][14]

John Wilson[edit]

John Wilson (born 17 April 1963)[15] is a former Garda, recognised for blowing the whistle on Penalty Points system irregularities within Ireland's national police force.

Wilson first brought information of Garda penalty points malpractice to the attention of members of Dáil Éireann under the Garda Siochána Act 2005 in 2012, having been unable to have the matter adequately handled within the Garda Complaints System. He left the force the following year, having served for more than 30 years (since 1982).[15][16] [17] In 2013, Wilson brought a High Court challenge to findings that he breached Garda discipline, but lost.[17]

Wilson later approached Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Transport Minister Leo Varadkar, who passed details on to Justice Minister Alan Shatter. Shatter asked for an internal garda inquiry into the penalty points complaints, with Assistant Commissioner John O'Mahoney failing to even interview Wilson.[10]

Wilson has recommended no tribunal, but has called for an independent public inquiry. "Maybe an independent High Court judge; I would settle for that."[15] He has asked that motorists who benefited from the alleged "corruption of Gardaí" be interviewed.[18] He also called for an apology from Shatter (who later resigned over the scandal) and from Kenny, saying that Shatter and Callinan "ridiculed" him for his actions.[19]

Guerin Report[edit]

In response to growing concern at mismanagement within the Gardaí arising from the whistleblower's allegations, the Guerin Report into corruption within the Garda Síochána (Ireland's national police force) was published on 9 May 2014. This looked only at issues raised by the serving Garda, Sergeant Maurice McCabe.

The report, compiled by Sean Guerin SC, investigated allegations that serious crimes were improperly investigated by the police and was critical of the treatment of whistleblower McCabe, who was harassed and subjected to death threats after attempting to disclose information. Alan Shatter resigned as Minister for Justice and Equality in advance of its publication. His successor Frances Fitzgerald immediately announced the establishment of a Commission of Investigation.[20]

Guerin recommended the establishment of a comprehensive Commission of Investigation whose terms of reference ought to include “definite matters of urgent public importance” such as the case of Jerry McGrath, who was convicted of murdering Sylvia Roche-Kelly in Limerick while on bail in 2007.[21][22]

Guerin concluded: "No complex organisation can succeed in its task if it cannot find the means of heeding the voice of a member whose immediate supervisors hold in the high regard in which Sgt McCabe was held. Ultimately An Garda Síochána does not seem to have been able to do that. Nor does the Minister for Justice and Equality, despite his having an independent supervisory and investigation function with specific statutory powers. The same appears true of GSOC (Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission), although this review is hampered in that regard by the fact that GSOC has not made documentation available."[23]

On 13 May 2014, the government discussed the report at cabinet.[24][25] Maurice McCabe, the whistleblower whose work prompted the report, spoke of feeling vindicated "after six years of fighting the system".[26]

McCabe's fellow whistleblower John Wilson described the contents of the report as "disgusting, truly disgusting".[27]

On 15 May 2014, during a Dáil debate on the issue, Pearse Doherty named Garda Keith Harrison as the latest whistleblower.[28]

Disclosures Tribunal[edit]

On 9 February 2017, a report in the Irish Examiner,[29] and a subsequent Prime Time special, revealed how Maurice McCabe was treated in the aftermath of the scandal, including when he was reported to Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, for child sexual abuse. This provoked outrage, with McCabe stating his intention to sue the State over the accusations. In February 2017, the government promised another commission of investigation into the 2017 allegations, to be chaired by Peter Charleton, a judge of the Supreme Court. McCabe demanded a Tribunal of Inquiry, which would take evidence in public rather than in private, and the government agreed to this after opposition pressure.[30]

Charleton formally opened the Disclosures Tribunal (Tribunal of Inquiry into protected disclosures made under the Protected Disclosures Act 2014 and certain other matters following Resolutions) with an introductory statement on 27 February 2017.[31] Public sittings commenced on 4 July 2017. The first week of this module examined the circumstances surrounding the creation of an incorrect sexual abuse report and whether it was seized upon by senior gardai to blacken Sergeant McCabe's name.[32]

At the end of November 2017, the second interim report of the Disclosures Tribunal found that claims by Garda Keith Harrison and his partner Marisa Simms were "entirely without any validity", that their allegations against social workers and police had "simply collapsed", and that social workers accused of abuse of office by them were "entitled to feel deeply upset at being targeted with such allegations".[33][34] Garda Harrison said he was disappointed but not surprised by the findings.[35]

On 11 October 2018, the third interim report of the was released by Judge Peter Charleton. It vindicates Garda Sergeant Maurice McCabe, former Garda Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan and former Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald and severely criticises former Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan and former Garda press officer Superintendant David Taylor.[36]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan resigns over whistleblower row". BBC News. 25 March 2014. Retrieved 25 March 2014.
  2. ^ "Irish police chief's resignation vindicates sacked investigative journalist". The Guardian. 25 March 2014. Retrieved 25 March 2014.
  3. ^ "Guerin report finds Shatter, gardaí failed to adequately investigate whistleblower claims". The Irish Times. 9 May 2014. Retrieved 9 May 2014.
  4. ^ Bohan, Christine (7 May 2014). "Explainer: Why Alan Shatter has resigned". The Journal. Retrieved 7 May 2014.
  5. ^ Daly, Susan (9 May 2014). "Frances Fitzgerald sets up full inquiry and an independent Garda authority: The new Justice Minister announces plans for "new era of policing"". The Retrieved 9 May 2014.
  6. ^ O'Halloran, Marie (13 May 2014). "Taoiseach has 'no problem' in apologising to Garda whistleblower". The Irish Times. Retrieved 13 May 2014.
  7. ^ "Dáil Éireann Debate, May 13, 2014". Dáil Éireann. Retrieved 14 May 2014.
  8. ^ "Garda Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan retires from office". Irish Times.
  9. ^ "'A good woman is leaving office without a full or fair hearing' - Varadkar addresses Dáil following Fitzgerald's resignation as Tanáiste". Irish Independent. 28 November 2017. Retrieved 29 November 2017.
  10. ^ a b c Clifford, Michael (25 January 2014). "Maurice McCabe's noble attempt to police gardaí". Irish Examiner. Retrieved 25 January 2014.
  11. ^ O'Connor, Niall (3 March 2014). "Whistleblower Maurice McCabe wants Dail record on remarks corrected". Irish Independent. Retrieved 3 March 2014.
  12. ^ Ryan, Orla (12 March 2014). "'Do the honourable thing': Shatter told to apologise to Maurice McCabe - Micheál Martin said today's Garda Inspectorate report into penalty points 'vindicated' whistleblowers". The Journal. Retrieved 12 March 2014.
  13. ^ Conboy, Patrick (25 March 2014). "Luke 'Ming' Flanagan calls for McCabe to be appointed Garda Commissioner". Longford Leader. Retrieved 25 March 2014.
  14. ^ "Roscommon South Leitrim TD calls for Sgt Maurice McCabe to be made new Garda Commissioner". Shannonside. 25 March 2014. Archived from the original on 12 May 2014. Retrieved 25 March 2014.
  15. ^ a b c Kenny, Colum (5 May 2013). "Whistleblower garda had 'no choice' but to quit force". Irish Independent. Retrieved 5 May 2013.
  16. ^ Ryan, Orla (10 March 2014). "'I'm up against it': Garda whistleblower to run in local elections - The former garda's revelations about penalty-point terminations in 2012 are now the subject of an official inquiry". The Journal. Retrieved 10 March 2014.
  17. ^ a b Carolan, Mary (18 December 2013). "Court challenge brought by Garda whistleblower". The Irish Times. Retrieved 18 December 2013.
  18. ^ Lally, Conor (28 January 2014). "Interview drivers with terminated points, urges Wilson". The Irish Times. Retrieved 28 January 2014.
  19. ^ "'We were ridiculed. I want an apology' .: Whistleblower Wilson". 12 March 2014. Retrieved 12 March 2014.
  20. ^ "Commission of Investigation to be established following Guerin Report". RTÉ News. 9 May 2014. Retrieved 9 May 2014.
  21. ^ Duncan, Pamela (9 May 2014). "Guerin report: main findings". The Irish Times. Retrieved 9 May 2014.
  22. ^ Daly, Susan (10 May 2014). "Jerry McGrath: The escalating horror and failures that led to a murder". The Retrieved 10 May 2014.
  23. ^ "Guerin exposes failures in Gardai and Government". Irish Independent. 10 May 2014. Retrieved 10 May 2014.
  24. ^ "Listen: Government to discuss Guerin Report at cabinet today". RTÉ News. 13 May 2014. Retrieved 13 May 2014.
  25. ^ "Findings of Guerin report to dominate this morning's Cabinet meeting". The 13 May 2014. Retrieved 13 May 2014.
  26. ^ Collins, Stephen; Siggins, Lorna; McGee, Harry; Labanyi, David (10 May 2014). "Whistleblower feels vindicated after 'six years fighting system'". The Irish Times. Retrieved 10 May 2014.
  27. ^ "Garda whistleblower John Wilson: The contents of the Guerin report are truly disgusting". Irish Independent. 9 May 2014. Retrieved 9 May 2014.
  28. ^ "Pearse Doherty names garda whistleblower in Dáil debate". RTÉ News. 16 May 2014. Retrieved 16 May 2014.
  29. ^ "EXCLUSIVE: False sex allegation against McCabe circulated by Tusla following "clerical error"". 2017-02-09. Retrieved 2017-02-27.
  30. ^ "After days of political turmoil, tribunal on way". RTÉ.ie. 14 February 2017. Retrieved 27 February 2017.
  31. ^ "Judge outlines details of McCabe tribunal". RTÉ.ie. 27 February 2017. Retrieved 27 February 2017.
  32. ^ Phelan, Shane (9 July 2017). "Chain of errors fed false claims about McCabe". Sunday Independent.
  33. ^ "Tribunal finds Harrison claims without 'validity'". RTE. 1 December 2017. Retrieved 3 December 2017. The tribunal said: "All of the allegations of Garda Keith Harrison and Marisa Simms examined by the tribunal are entirely without any validity. "They have claimed to have been the victims of a malicious procession of events. "That is not so ... It is appropriate here to exonerate everyone in social services and in policing accused by them of discreditable conduct. That is the only possible conclusion to the tribunal's enquiry." The report states that during the hearing "very serious allegations" by Mr Harrison and Ms Simms "simply collapsed". It said the social workers accused by them of abuse of office were "entitled to feel deeply upset at being targeted with such allegations".
  34. ^ "Second Interim Report of the Tribunal of Inquiries into protected disclosures made under the Protected Disclosures Act 2014 and certain other matters - Report on matters relating to Garda Keith Harrison pursuant to terms of reference (n) and (o)" (PDF). 30 November 2017. Retrieved 3 December 2017.
  35. ^ "Harrison disappointed by findings of Disclosures Tribunal". RTE. 1 December 2017. Retrieved 3 December 2017.
  36. ^ "'Utter mystery' as to how Taylor was press officer, says Charleton". RTÉ. 11 October 2018. Retrieved 12 October 2018.

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