Ross says PAC will defend right to hear from whistleblowers

Callinan view that committee should not deal with issue is extraordinary, says TD

 Independent TD Shane Ross who described as ‘extraordinary’ some of the comments  by the Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan to the PAC yesterday. Photograph: The Irish Times

Independent TD Shane Ross who described as ‘extraordinary’ some of the comments by the Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan to the PAC yesterday. Photograph: The Irish Times

Fri, Jan 24, 2014, 13:34

A member of the Dáil Public Accounts Committee has said it would robustly defend its right to take evidence from garda whistleblowers against any possible court challenge by the Garda Commissioner.

Commissioner Martin Callinan has consulted with the Attorney General’s office about the options open to him in seeking to prevent a garda sergeant testifying before the PAC on alleged wrongdoing in the force.

Mr Callinan has been told the courts would be open to him as early as today to apply for an injunction in an ex-parte High Court hearing, meaning the committee would not be represented.

Independent Deputy Shane Ross said today the committee was keen to hear evidence in public from a garda sergeant and said it was “extraordinary” that the commissioner was of the view that the committee was not the platform through which whistleblowers should give information.

He said the two whistleblowers, one retired garda and a serving sergeant, had both tried internal garda reporting mechanisms to have their concerns addressed and had found this unsatisfactory.

The PAC was entitled to examine the issue because it concerned the potential loss of revenue to the State due to fine revenue forgone due to terminated penalty point notices.

He described as “disdainful” the attitude of the Commissioner during his appearance before the committee yesterday, where he suggested that the PAC was not the proper forum for gardaí to make serious or criminal accusations against colleagues.

Using that platform to discuss such matters would have an adverse effect on discipline within the force, Mr Callinan said.

“He was almost disdainful of the Public Accounts Committee, which is after all a democratic forum,” Mr Ross said.

“I thought it was quite extraordinary. The Commissioner said that. He said the PAC shouldn’t be used as a platform and went on to say that matters of such importance should not be discussed here.

“He then went on to say that they (whistleblowers) should be dealt with by me, myself - meaning that he was important enough to do it, but not us.”

“He went on to talk about being ‘usurped by subordinates’, which was an extraordinary phrase to use - again regarding his ‘subordinates’, as he calls them, as being second class citizens when they have every right to express a view, an opinion, and give evidence in public,” Mr Ross told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.