Despite all the farce, there has been a change for the better in Garda culture
In a number of cases, the information leaked to the media by the campaign was wildly inaccurate
Minister for Justice Alan Shatter walks past Independent TD Luke Ming Flanagan before speaking to the media yesterday.
Late last year when a group of independent TDs gathered to hold a press conference in a Dublin city centre hotel, they said they had shocking facts that would rock the Garda.
They made allegations that a large number of members had been wiping motorists’ penalty points from licences without following the correct procedures and for no apparent reason.
Had they left it at that, they may have emerged from this debacle having been at least partially proven right. But they couldn’t resist going further.
They were revealing not simply lax and liberal Garda procedures, but instead claimed there existed widespread corruption across the force. They alleged a rotten culture that had seen the laws of the land at best bent and at worst broken early and often by those very men and women charged with enforcing those laws.
But the cracks in their campaign began to emerge pretty quickly.
A promise to name judges, gardai, journalists, sports
stars and other prominent figures who had points terminated was rowed back on in embarrassing circumstances at the campaign’s press conference.
It was clear the Garda whistleblowers had gathered their evidence in a general trawl of the Garda Pulse computer database; a practice not permitted.
In a number of cases, the information leaked to the media by the campaign was wildly inaccurate. In one case it was alleged a very well known television figure had had points terminated; a fact that would have most likely ended or seriously damaged his career given the nature of the post he fills.
However, basic checks carried out by this correspondent quickly established the motorist who had points terminated was a man with
the same name as the
television figure but was very significantly older and lived in a completely different part of the country.
It looked like a duck and it walked like a duck; but it was the wrong duck. The wrong person was fingered with an allegation that was unproven anyway.
And the Garda report into the wider allegations published yesterday completely dismantles most of what the Garda whistleblowers alleged.
The more detailed their allegations in the 2,198 points cancellations they flagged, the more glaring their errors; a frightening statement of fact given both whistleblowers were members of the Garda, at sergeant rank, with one still serving.
The credibility of the campaign was not helped by the fact most of the running was done by Mick Wallace TD whose significant issues with the Revenue Commissioners have been well documented and Luke Ming Flanagan TD.
He admitted while campaigning against the penalty-points based “Garda corruption”
that he had benefitted from
the practice himself.
He has been less vocal and visible on the campaign since those facts were exposed in the media and he was forced to come clean.
But despite all of the farce and inaccuracy that has surrounded what the whistleblowers tried to do, they have still brought about a change for the better in the Garda culture.
While corruption has not been proven, what has been revealed is a system of the cancelling of penalty points that is at best a little frayed around the edges and at worst, characterised by unprofessionalism in just over 10 per cent of cases.
A series of what appear to be common sense recommendations have been set out and the Garda Inspectorate asked to oversee how they are implemented.
Members of the force will also heretofore be much more aware that when somebody is penalised for being in breach of the law, airlifting them to safety can only be done in very exceptional circumstances in an evidence-based processed open to regular scrutiny.