McCabe has suffered bloody nose but there is plenty still to come
Shatter is already damaged politically despite a strong Dail performance
Sgt Maurice McCabe arriving for the Public Account Committee meeting in Leinster House in January 2014.Photograph: Cyril Byrne
The name of Garda whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe may have only become fixed in the public consciousness in recent months, but Official Ireland has heard plenty from him over the years.
Detail about the frequency and nature of his complaints outlined by Minister for Justice Alan Shatter in the Dáil yesterday painted a picture of a man who has busied himself for years in trying to expose what he sees as wholesale Garda corruption around him and not getting far.
Even allowing for the usual self serving nature of ministerial speeches, Shatter presented many facts that do not make easy reading for McCabe.
Given the blizzard of correspondence to and from the sergeant, a chronological look at events is best.
McCabe was working as a sergeant in Bailieboro in the Cavan-Monaghan division when he took a number of complaints to Garda Headquarters, Phoenix Park Dublin.
They related to neglect of duty and other “malpractice” including a chief superintendent’s alleged failure to act appropriately when McCabe brought his concerns to the officer’s attention. He also claimed he had been victimised. A chief superintendent was appointed by Garda Headquarters to investigate.
Later in 2008 McCabe went to the then confidential recipient Brian McCarty
to make further serious allegations.
They included the failure by gardaí to notify a court in 2007 that Tipperary man Jerry McGrath was already on bail for attacking a female
taxi driver when he came before the courts seeking bail for the attempted abduction of a child. (He was granted bail again and while free murdered Sylvia Roche Kelly in a Limerick hotel in December 2007.)
The allegations in late 2008 concerned the failure of gardaí to properly investigate several cases including attempted rape, falsification of records, failure to deal with sexual harassment of a female garda and blocking him in assessing and monitoring probationer gardaí.
McCabe again contacted the confidential recipient alleging he was being victimised for making the earlier complaints. And later in the year he contacted the confidential recipient again about further alleged harassment. This time an assistant commissioner and chief superintendent were appointed to investigate.
He also wrote to the then minister for justice Dermot Ahern about his complaints of malpractice in Bailieboro made the previous year seeking an independent inquiry.
Ahern replied telling McCabe he had no role in interfering with Garda investigations and advised him to let the probe run its course.
When that inquiry was completed, the assistant commissioner in charge of it submitted 10 files on the allegations into the alleged malpractice in Bailieboro to the DPP, who directed there was insufficient evidence for any prosecution. The Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) inquiries reached the same conclusion on the same complaints.
McCabe also made a complaint against an assistant commissioner who he alleged had assaulted and falsely imprisoned him. That allegation was investigated by a deputy commissioner and a file sent to the DPP, who directed no charges be brought.
In January, by now having been transferred to the traffic corps in Mullingar, Co Westmeath, McCabe went to the then confidential recipient Oliver Connolly. He made 12 allegations against a named superintendent for “direct wrongdoing or not dealing properly with wrongdoing” and a complaint of assault and false imprisonment against an assistant commissioner.
There was also a complaint against the Garda Commissioner for permitting a named superintendent to sit on a promotions panel despite having allegedly been guilty of wrongdoing.
The batch of allegations included very serious charges of gardaí falsifying, altering and destroying official records.
Shatter wrote to Callinan the following day and requested an “urgent report”.
Callinan responded saying 11 of the 12 new allegations were those McCabe had made via the confidential recipient back in 2008 and had already been dealt with. He said the 12th complaint related to a priest who had sexually abused a young boy, pointing out the cleric had been investigated and sentenced to five years.
In September solicitors for McCabe wrote to Shatter and passed on three booklets of documentation and requested the establishment of a special independent inquiry provided for by the Garda Síochána Act.
Shatter asked if McCabe would agree to waive his confidentiality, allowing for the booklets and allegations to be forwarded to Callinan. He said he needed to gather “full facts” from Garda Headquarters before properly considering McCabe’s request for a statutory inquiry.
Despite lengthy correspondence into last year, permission to waive the confidentiality was never secured.
Not included in Shatter’s account yesterday were McCabe’s efforts to blow the whistle around the termination of penalty points and his securing an invite to the Public Accounts Committee last month on that issue.
Aside from including some penalty points related allegations in the booklets forwarded by his solicitor to Shatter in September 2012, McCabe has approached members of the Oireachtas with his penalty points allegations rather than those limbs of State he dealt with thus far and clearly feels frustrated with; the Garda, Department of Justice, Minister for Justice, the GSOC, the DPP and the confidential recipient.
Shatter has now set out a scenario of complaints being made repeatedly and not being upheld despite thorough investigation and of a complainant unable to accept those outcomes.
However, McCabe and those who support him have already scored major victories.
Confidential recipient Connolly has been relieved of his position and the GSOC is now investigating aspects of the Jerry McGrath case.
Barrister Sean Guerin has, after weeks of intense political pressure, been appointed to assess how Shatter and his department dealt with the complaints raised by McCabe in recent years that are now in the dossier Micháel Martin has taken up. And Shatter has been bounced into a similar internal Departmental review.
Shatter gave McCabe and those supporting him a bloody nose yesterday but he has been very damaged by recent events. With so many processes still in play, there is plenty to come.