Since news of the suspected eavesdropping of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission emerged and events since developed to include serious allegations of Garda malpractice based on the complaints of Garda Sergeant Maurice McCabe, the uniform response of the Government, that is, of the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste, the Minister for Justice and Equality, and the Fine Gael and Labour Ministers, has been to close ranks to protect the top management of the Garda Síochána and to denigrate, undermine and demean GSOC officials and both Garda whistleblowers, Sergeant McCabe and now retired Garda John Wilson.
This is not just because of the apparent close professional relationship between the Minister for Justice and Equality and the Garda Commissioner. This is because the Garda is the institution that in this capitalist State, this Government and its predecessors relied upon not just to deal with day-to-day normal policing actions such as traffic management and crime investigation, but, crucially, to enforce the implementation of right-wing neoliberal economic and social policies such as savage austerity and the privatisation of public resources against the opposition of ordinary people. For example, this Government and its predecessors used the Garda in the most disgusting fashion to brutally repress an entire community in Mayo which was opposing the writ of giving to Shell Oil a fabulous natural resource, our natural gas wealth, with the endangerment of their community and environment. There has been in recent years a tendency to criminalise protest and to use the Garda Síochána in a very brutal fashion to oppose legitimate protests by ordinary citizens in this State. These and other similar actions of the Garda Síochána should also be investigated in a really independent way.
Sergeant Maurice McCabe has welcomed the appointment of a senior counsel to examine his dossier of evidence of malpractice and incompetence in the Garda after years of being victimised, isolated and slandered by certain senior Garda officers. It is a significant achievement for Sergeant McCabe that his detailed concerns about wrongdoing within the Garda are now accepted, after much personal suffering on his part, as needing a major investigation. However, appointing a senior barrister to look at a dossier like this is not enough; the victims of the highlighted Garda malpractice all support the claims of the whistleblowers. Should any serious investigation not involve them and other citizens who have been victims of malpractice and involve ordinary working people whose taxes pay for the Garda, rather than it being confined to the exclusive Law Library which is a bastion of the establishment? Will the Minister for Justice and Equality state categorically today that not only will the Garda whistleblowers be fully engaged with in any future investigation, but that he will guarantee that there will be no further victimisation of Sergeant McCabe or of any other ordinary member of the force who brings malpractice complaints against superiors? Is the Minister prepared to give that clear recommendation here today? Will former Garda John Wilson be enabled to engage with the investigation? John Wilson has also been subjected to shocking pressure, including from an individual who pressurised him to withdraw complaints against a senior officer on the erasing of penalty points. That individual also slandered Garda McCabe in a most disgusting fashion. This individual was a senior judge practising in the courts. Will that be investigated?
The Labour Party in particular stands shamed by its slavish failure to stand for a totally independent investigation into what anyone could see were blatant abuses by sections of senior Garda management. Who will forget the spectacle of the hapless Minister for Social Protection, Deputy Joan Burton, in the House last Thursday in defence of the indefensible as she hyperverbalised and hyperventilated herself into quite a state, pointing her trademark quivering forefinger and flapping her hands in such a frenzy that we thought she might become airborne as she desperately tried not to look over to the Labour benches to see the ghost of her Opposition past berating past Governments for much lesser political crimes. Democratic revolution, where are you?
Sections of the media have acted as a journalistic Praetorian guard for the Garda Commissioner and management undermining the complaints of legitimate whistleblowers. That is extremely consistent with the previous acts of Independent Newspapers which sacked journalist Gemma Doherty for having the audacity to question why the Garda Commissioner himself was forgiven penalty points. It is not just the Garda who need democratic supervision, but the billionaire-owned media also needs to be subjected to the democratic control of ordinary citizens to see if it could tell the truth and really represent the interests of ordinary people for a change.