Garda whistleblower timeline

Content of meeting with Maurice McCabe reignites tensions that refuse to fade

Sgt Maurice McCabe: back in 2008, he outlined concerns about Garda practice regarding two unnamed officers. The content of his recording of that meeting has sparked serious  controversy seven years later.  Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Sgt Maurice McCabe: back in 2008, he outlined concerns about Garda practice regarding two unnamed officers. The content of his recording of that meeting has sparked serious controversy seven years later. Photograph: Cyril Byrne


2008: At a meeting in Mullingar, Co Westmeath, Sgt Maurice McCabe outlines concerns about Garda practice regarding two unnamed officers. He records the meeting, the content of which will spark a controversy seven years later.

November 29th, 2012: An interim report on the practice of gardaí terminating penalty points, in many cases for no stated reason, is sent from Garda headquarters to minister for justice Alan Shatter.

The matter has been brought to light by Garda whistleblowers John Wilson and McCabe.

October 1st and 2nd, 2013: The Comptroller and Auditor General publishes a report on the penalty points scandal, supporting the claims of the whistleblowers. Shatter criticises the whistleblowers in the Dáil, alleging they did not co-operate with the Garda investigations into their allegations that gardaí had corruptly terminated penalty points.

The assertion is vigorously disputed by the whistleblowers.

January 23rd, 2014: Garda commissioner Martin Callinan appears before the Public Accounts Committee. “Quite clearly here, we have two people out of a force of over 13,000 who are making extraordinary, serious allegations and there isn’t a whisper anywhere else, from any other member of the Garda about this corruption, this malpractice and all of those things that are levelled against their fellow officers. Frankly I think it is quite disgusting, on a personal level I think it is quite disgusting.”

February 25th, 2014: Barrister Seán Guerin is asked to review the penalty points dossier supplied by the whistleblowers. He is asked to decide whether a full statutory inquiry is needed.

March 20th, 2014: Minister for transport Leo Varadkar calls on Callinan to withdraw his “disgusting” comment. A number of Labour ministers including Eamon Gilmore and Ruairí Quinn say the commissioner should withdraw his remarks.

March 25th, 2014: Callinan resigns for “family reasons”. Assistant commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan takes over as acting Garda commissioner.

March 26th, 2014: Shatter apologises to the whistleblowers and concedes he misled the Dáil by saying they did not co-operate with Garda investigations. “It was never my intention to cause any upset and, if any upset was caused, I hope that my correcting the record of the Dáil today will put this matter to rest.”

May 7th, 2014: Shatter resigns from his ministry following receipt of the report of Guerin into the allegations made by Sgt McCabe.

May 9th, 2014: In his 300-page report, Guerin concludes the Garda and Shatter failed in their duties to properly investigate matters raised by McCabe, who welcomes the findings, saying they had vindicated him. “It is a good day after six years of fighting the system. Now I hope my family and I can move on.” Newly appointed Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald says the report reaffirms that “we must now enter a new era of policing in this country and that organisational reform and cultural change is essential”.

November 25th 2014: O’Sullivan is formally appointed Garda Commissioner.

February 3rd, 2015: The O’Higgins commission of investigation is established. Justice Kevin O’Higgins is tasked with examining the claims made by McCabe about corruption and malpractice in the Cavan-Monaghan division.

April 25th, 2016: The commission report is handed in to the Department of Justice. Fitzgerald says she will examine it and consult the Attorney General with a view to arranging its publication.

May 10th, 2016: Leaked copies of the unpublished commission report begin to circulate. Shatter and Callinan were found to have handled McCabe’s complaints in a professional and appropriate manner “at all times”.

It describes McCabe as a “dedicated and committed” member of the force.

May 11th, 2016: The O’Higgins report is published.

May 13th 2016: The Irish Examiner prints details of unpublished documents relating to the commission. They claim to show that when O’Higgins asked O’Sullivan’s barrister Colm Smyth whether “you are attacking [McCabe’s] motivation and attacking his character” counsel for O’Sullivan replied “right the way through”. May 14th, 2016: Fitzgerald declines to comment on the story but Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin says: “I think it would be useful for the Garda Commissioner to clarify the report.”

May 16th, 2016: As the controversy gathers momentum, O’Sullivan moves to address claims she instructed her barrister to “attack” McCabe’s motivation and character. She releases a statement saying: “I want to make it clear that I do not, and have never, regarded McCabe as malicious.” The issue of “malice” relates to the 2008 meeting at which it is alleged that he had expressed malice toward a senior officer. His recording of that meeting, according to reports, later disproved any such claim.

May 17th, 2016: RTÉ reports further details of commission transcripts. They show that early in the hearings Smyth had said his “instructions from the commissioner” were “to challenge the integrity . . . of Sgt McCabe”.

However, on the morning O’Sullivan was to give her evidence, O’Higgins sought further clarification and Smyth informed him his “instructions at all times were to challenge the motivation and credibility of Sgt McCabe”. He said it was an error on his part when he had earlier stated he was instructed to challenge McCabe’s “integrity”.

May 17th, 2016: Political pressure mounts in the Dáil. Independents 4 Change TD Clare Daly tells Ms Fitzgerald: “I think it’s obvious it’s time for this commissioner to go and unless you act, she’s going to take you with her.”