It’s clear to anyone of sound mind that the Irish police force has become corrupt and unaccountable. What may have started as a fairly trivial investigation into the systemic erosion of penalty points has underpinned what many have believed for some time now, the Gardaí are above the laws they purport to uphold. Here is a brief summary of the important, inter-linked issues to date.
Penalty Points – The Gardaí have been wiping people’s penalty points from their licenses as personal favours on an enormous scale. At first glance, a typically Irish brand of parochial corruption but the story goes much deeper.
War on Whistleblowers – The mechanisms by which Gardaí can report wrongdoing within the force have proven to be a sham. Gardaí can supposedly approach the office of the Confidential Recipient, a subset of the Department of Justice, anonymously and blow the whistle on internal corruption. However the case is then referred to the Garda Commissioner to investigate so it can be a case of senior Gardaí investing senior Gardaí. The internal report into the penalty points found no evidence of corruption surprisingly enough, a report which didn’t even interview the very whistleblowers who raised the issue in the first place. The Gardaí have a long record of harassing and frustrating the work of whistleblowers in the past including the two officers who revealed the penalty points scandal. Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan described the actions of the whistleblowers as “disgusting”.
The Media – Irish Independent journalist Gemma O’Doherty who was investigating the penalty points corruption, was internally disciplined for calling to Garda Commisioner Martin Callinan’s house for comment, a fairly typical journalistic tactic. A few weeks later, she was offered a “voluntary redundancy” despite having been one of the paper’s top investigative reporters for over a decade. It subsequently emerged, though absolutely nowhere in the Irish media, that the Irish Independent’s editor in chief Stephen Rae, a former editor of the Garda Review magazine, had his penalty points wiped clean.
Cold Case –Father Niall Molloy was murdered in 1985 in an inheritance quarrel seemingly lifted from John B. Keane’s The Field. Evidence was contaminated, key witnesses were not interviewed and the Judge was a family friend of the accused. Where the Gardaí come in is intriguing. Martin Cahill, ‘The General’ and one of Ireland’s most infamous crimes bosses, stole files from the Director of Public Prosecution’s office, files that contained details of the case previously unknown to the public. Journalist Veronica Guerin then revealed some of Cahill’s information which exposed the pathetic Gardai investigation into the murder and the willingness of the DPP to cover it up.
So concerned were the Gardai with retrieving Cahill’s stolen files that, according to crime reporter Paul Williams, they cut a deal with him to drop charges against his associate John Traynor, one of the most notorious gangsters in Ireland. The Molloy case was reopened but despite the overwhelming amounts of evidence for a cover-up and at least mass negligence, nothing ever came of it. The journalist who took up the case and forced the State to reopen it? Gemma O’Doherty of the Irish Independent.
GSOC and Minister Alan Shatter – One of the whistleblowing Gardai involved in the penalty points case was told by the office of the Confidential Recipient that Minister Alan Shatter “will go after you” if he were to proceed with his complaints. In addition, GSOC, the Garda Ombudsman, discovered that its office had been bugged last year but did not approach Minister Shatter over the issue, clearly in fear or knowledge that he would not do anything about it. The Gardaí have denied bugging the office but the question of who else would bug the office of a body charged with supervising the state’s police force springs to mind.
Rather than address this essential question of who bugged GSOC, Minister Shatter has sought to downplay the event and even focus his criticism on the comparably insignificant matter of GSOC failing to inform him of this security breach at an earlier date.