Analysis: Shatter’s resignation complaints come with a dose of irony
Minister’s comments about Guerin inquiry echo his treatment of Garda Maurice McCabe
Whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe made his allegations as far back as May 2008, when he was stationed in Cavan-Monaghan. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times
The first complaints to authorities by Garda whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe were made as far back as May 2008, when he was stationed in Cavan-Monaghan. He alleged some very serious errors and malpractice by colleagues; the two most serious instances relating to cases from 2007.
Sylvia Roche-Kelly was brutally murdered in Limerick in 2007. The perpetrator had been granted bail by a District Court judge in Co Tipperary who was not informed he was already on bail for another very serious offence in Cavan-Monaghan. McCabe alleged that if the Cavan-Monaghan division had informed colleagues in Co Tipperary of the case, the man would not have been freed to murder Ms Roche-Kelly.
In a second case, taxi driver Mary Lynch was very seriously assaulted in her car in Co Monaghan. Following this, McCabe alleged that the Garda failed to inform her of the hearing of the case.
It was also contended that gardaí did not supply adequate information to a separate hearing about this assault when the perpetrator sought bail on another serious offence. In recent months, a new complaint about this matter has been submitted to the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission. McCabe made a series of other complaints of malpractice, poor practice, omissions and alleged corruption to Garda authorities.
When he was transferred to the traffic corps in Co Westmeath, McCabe became one of two Garda whistleblowers (the other was retired garda John Wilson, also from Cavan-Monaghan) who accessed the Pulse computer and collated information on thousands of instances in which they alleged senior gardaí had exercised discretion without proper basis. The narrative has been made complex by the convoluted and labyrinthine way in which McCabe was forced to raise those allegations.
These allegations of malpractice had been previously investigated internally by the Garda, by the GSOC and by a former confidential recipient Brian McCarthy. Some of the allegations were made by McCabe to McCarthy’s successor as confidential recipient, Oliver Connolly. Files on some allegations were also sent to the DPP, but a decision was taken not to initiate any prosecution against any member of the force.
When Connolly told McCabe in 2012 that he had exhausted all avenues in respect of his complaints, McCabe then began a writing campaign, sending correspondence and emails directly to the Department of Justice and to the office of Taoiseach Enda Kenny. Separately, when Independent TDs Mick Wallace and Clare Daly spoke in the Dáil about the alleged widespread cancellation of penalty points, it led to an internal Garda investigation headed by Assistant Commissioner John O’Mahoney.
McCabe was not interviewed by the investigation. In the Dáil last October, minister for justice Alan Shatter alleged that he had not co-operated with the inquiry. McCabe strongly disputed that, saying he had never been contacted by O’Mahoney. Shatter had relied on a circular and instruction communicated by then Garda commissioner Martin Callinan to McCabe in December 2012. However, it contained no specific instruction to McCabe to co-operate with the inquiry. When Shatter was accused of misleading the Dáil by saying McCabe refused to co-operate, the minister denied the charge.
Where did Shatter’s ministerial responsibilities begin and end? It seems that he became aware of at least some of the allegations from 2012 onwards. Because McCabe had made allegations about the then commissioner Callinan, confidential recipient Connolly was obliged, under the 2005 Garda Síochána Act, to inform the Minister.