This one was serious. Evidence of "grave mistakes and wrongdoings" had surfaced in An Garda Síochána. The boss wanted it sorted and quickly. The reputation of her force, and more importantly, public trust in it, was at stake.
"We have been brought up as police men and women: we want to get the facts before going public," barked Commissioner Lacey Cagney. She would repeat those very words before a make-or-break Oireachtas hearing in Leinster House this week.
“So get out there and turn over every stone you see. Turn ‘em all over until we find the lily-livered worms defiling the reputation of our great organisation. How hard can it be to track down the schmucks who made up a million breathalyser tests? Who was tinkering with the Templemore finances? Why were motorists wrongly convicted?” she said.
“We’re cops, for God’s sake! Put your best men and women on it. Pull in every rookie and squeeze ‘em until the little pipsqueaks squawk. We were those rookies once. We know how it works.
“Now get to it. I want a full report ASAP. There’s a million fake breath tests and 14,500 false convictions in the naked city. And I’m getting indecent exposure.”
Streetwise assistant commissioner “Dirty” Barry Callaghan knew what to do. He sent for Chief Inspector Semaphore and Sgt Luas.
There was no time to lose. The erudite Semaphore and enthusiastic Balally Luas got to work. They set up an incident room. They assembled a crack team of resource-efficient investigators, men and women whose names mean something in the ranks.
Men like Shercock Homes from Cavan, legendary member of the Special Root and Branch. Women like Foxy Mulder-Sherote and the hard-drinking DCI Jane Wordsworth, trailblazers in the notoriously macho and competitive Root and Branch. They hadn't much to go on. And that's just how they like it.
In April 2014, an anonymous whistleblower contacted the Road Safety Authority to say test figures were being inflated like a bag on an old-fashioned breathalyser. In July of the same year, the Medical Bureau of Road Safety also got in touch with major concerns about those cockamamie tests not adding up.
Alarm bells were ringing. It was all coming together.
Lacey Cagney kept the pressure on. “Dirty” Barry and his team kept on digging. With a million fake breath tests logged by their own colleagues, they had a ready-made witness pool; they knew exactly where to go and who to talk to. They knew this investigation was of national importance. They had to succeed
Eight months later, the results-driven officers finally undertook a quiet nose around the southern corner of An Garda Síochána. They discovered a bit of an aul’ discrepancy, right enough. So they continued to haul in their colleagues, from the bottom up and the top down. Just as the commissioner requested.
The medical bureau kept in touch. By the summer of 2015, they supplied more worrying falsification figures.
The Special Root and Branch boys immediately redoubled their efforts, not least because the top brass were coming down on them like a ton of bricks.
"Commence a national audit, and whatever you do, keep me and keep the bloody Policing Authority informed. I'll have no repeats of the secrecy, foot-dragging and sharp practices of previous years," Lacey Cagney instructed. "Not on my watch."
That was nearly two years ago. The bureau heard no more. The Policing Authority was kept in the dark. The audit was a shambles.
But Semaphore and Luas continued working, asking questions, putting in the hard yards. Shercock Homes gathered pieces of the jigsaw. Mulder-Sherote and Wordsworth tried to make it all fit. Nobody thought of ringing the medical bureau, which had all the info.
Then, just a few week ago, in February, The Irish Times lifted the lid on the whole stinking breathalyser and false convictions game.
Suddenly, Commissioner Cagney went public. It was a triumph. Thanks to the efforts of the Special Root and Branch, she revealed full details of the elaborate caper cooked up to make it look like gardaí were doing far more work than they actually were, creating fake fantastic results which cast management in a very flattering light.
At the explosive hearing, with knowledgeable lieutenants in support, she explained fully and transparently why and how this systemic malpractice occurred, who knew about it, who benefited and what sanctions were imposed.
Afterwards, Cagney returned to her office in the Phoenix Park and opened the bottle of 20-year-old malt she had been keeping for a big occasion. She sloshed the amber liquor into a chipped mug, in accordance with tradition.
“To my major programme of reform and our suite of deliverables!” she cried.
Dirty Barry, Semaphore, Luas, Shercock, Wordsworth and Mulder-Sherote raised their mugs and toasted the guv’nor.
“And to the Special Root and Branch for helping us crack this case in jig time.”
Dirty Barry smiled.
“Don’t mention it, Guv. We’re coppers. It’s what we do.”
Happy April 1st.
(This Thursday, after three years of supposedly scouring the ranks, the people in charge of An Garda Síochána told the committee they didn’t really know whodunnit, they aren’t exactly sure why they dunnit and whatever they imagine might have been done, it will never be done again until the next time.)
Lip-synching Senator steals the show
Move over, Enda. One of your constituency colleagues is gunning for your internet title. The Taoiseach, as we know, was proud as punch when his people told him that a short clip of his speech in the White House on the eve of St Patrick's Day was attracting a serious number of hits on the internet. Fifty thousand, he told the Dáil modestly as he burnished his credentials for staying in the top job for a while longer.
This week, with many of the big hitters in Europe specifically referring to Ireland’s special case status in the Brexit negotiations, Enda’s star has been shining that little bit brighter again. His efforts to highlight our unique relationship with the UK and explain why Brexit will cause particular complications on this side of the Irish Sea appear to have paid off. (Although our hardworking diplomats have a lot to do with it too.)
This weekend, though, it's Mayo Senator and former Fine Gael TD Michelle Mulherin who is proving a big hit on social media.
Michelle's tour-de-force performance of a Shania Twain number at a fundraising event in Ballina last weekend went up on her Facebook page on Thursday evening and it clocked up almost 10,000 views by yesterday afternoon.
She was one of 16 acts taking part in Ballina Rugby Club’s sellout Strictly Lip Sync contest in the Great National Hotel last Saturday. The Senator’s saucy routine wowed the crowd, who gave her a standing ovation, and she sashayed away with first prize.
Fianna Fáil's jobs spokesman Dara Calleary, despite his spirited heavy metal homage to the short-trousered Angus Young of AC/DC, was left floundering in her wake.
Mulherin chose to lip-sync to the country crossover star’s hit Man! I Feel Like a Woman! “It’s a great female anthem, in my view, about having a really fun night out,” she said.
She gave it everything. Wearing an outfit similar to the one worn by Twain in her video of the song, Mulherin wore thigh boots, a very short skirt and a white shirt over a black bustier. As she danced and pranced her way through the number, she whipped off the shirt at the end of the routine and the crowd went wild.
“I told Dara that if he had done a strip at the end of his song, he might have beaten me,” she joked afterwards. Calleary, toting a guitar, wore a long wig, shortish trousers, a shirt, a school tie and a cap.
The acts were coached by local dance teacher Áine Egan, who runs Dance World in Castlebar. After a few rehearsals, Michelle was good to go.
“It was a really great night out for the whole town. There was such camaraderie among the performers. I didn’t know what to expect, but it was a brilliant experience,” Michelle said. “I had to go to Grafton Street to get the boots in a sale and I had no idea where to find the corset thingy.”
The former TD for Mayo grew up with country music. "I can sing Johnny Cash, I can sing June Carter and I grew up knowing how to jive and how to waltz."
She studied the Shania Twain video for inspiration before perfecting her moves. “You have to have a sense of humour about yourself, especially if you’re involved in politics.”
After her experience, Michelle said she was "in awe of Teresa Mannion", the RTÉ reporter who took part in Dancing with the Stars this year.
After watching the Senator in action, the producers could do worse than pick Mulherin for the next series. “Onwards and upwards,” promises the Ballina trouper.