And so we say farewell to Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan, the man who described whistleblowers from within the gardaí as “disgusting”. Two gardaí, Maurice McCabe and John Wilson, had alleged that the penalty points system was being abused – that is, those issued with them were having their licence wiped clean because they had good connections higher up the food-chain. The Commissioner thought it was “disgusting” that McCabe and Wilson should say such a thing.
Then it emerged through an investigation of garda practice that the whistleblowers were absolutely right – there was abuse. Then it emerged that the Minister for Justice, Alan Shatter, had known about such dodgy practices for some two years and had done nothing. You could tell the pressure was building as Shatter’s fellow party member Leo Varadkar said he wouldn’t use the word ‘disgusting’, he’d use the word ‘distinguished’ to describe the actions of the whistleblowers.
Shatter claimed the two whistleblowers had refused to co-operate with the investigation into malpractice, something which they denied.
So. One very large policeman’s head has rolled. Are you waiting for the sound of another, in this case political head to drop and roll? If so, it looks as though you may not have long to wait.
In a way I can understand the Garda Commissioner’s d-word. All organisations tend to close ranks when they’re attacked, especially from within. And if you have a strong sense of fraternal solidarity, as I imagine the gardaí have, then someone speaking out in public about bad things you’ve been doing isn’t something you welcome. You feel betrayed. You feel these people are acting in a disgusting manner.
But of course that is to forget what you’re there for and who pays you. The gardaí are not there to look after each other or those in the wider public with influence. They are there to serve the public, and the opposite of serving the public is to give a pass to someone because he or she is well-connected, whereas for someone not well-connected, ah no, sure the law is the law, licence penalties must remain in place. Garda Commissioner Callinan clearly felt his position was untenable. It’ll be interesting to see how Minister of Justice Shatter responds. One thing he can be sure of: his Labour coalition partners will be pulling hard on the oars to put as much green water between them and him as possible.
And aren’t those of us north of the border lucky to be free of such police-politician collusion?