Chapter 7 - Management of Fixed Charge Notice System (Continued)

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Committee of Public Accounts Debate

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Mr. John O'Mahoney:] There had been an incident, as the Commissioner described, and I was also aware that both of those persons had been issued with a direction that if they wanted to make their complaints, I was available to receive them. I waited for their contact but it did not come.

During the course of the investigation, around February 2013, one of those whistleblowers had extensive contact with a chief superintendent who was investigating the complaints about confidential fraud reporting. I was aware of that process and of the complaints he had made in that regard, and that the complaints mirrored strongly some of the issues I was investigating.

Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: Information on Mary Lou McDonald Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald Mr. O'Mahoney still did not speak to him.

Mr. John O'Mahoney: No, I did not speak to him.

Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: Information on Mary Lou McDonald Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald To summarise this, as far as I can ascertain we have two directly conflicting accounts of what happened in respect of the whistleblowers coming forward. The reason by the way that this element is so important is that, in respect of accountability structures, provisions and protections for whistleblowers are essential, albeit as an action of last resort. The Commissioner said it is extraordinary that only two officers came forward out of a force of 13,000 officers. Others have responded that it would be extraordinary if more than two came forward given the nature of these matters. For me, the case for the committee to hear from the whistleblower or whistleblowers is now compelling. I have not yet heard testimony from either individual but I am certain from what I know that they would strenuously contest that account and defend the position that they acted absolutely within the procedures of An Garda Síochána, including making a full report to the confidential recipient. The committee needs to get to the bottom of that matter.

The Commissioner expressed concern about the use of the committee as a platform from which individuals might exploit opportunities to make wild allegations or unsubstantiated claims. Looking at the matter from the point of view of whistleblowers and in a balanced and objective way, we cannot allow the committee to become a platform from which to disparage or cast question marks over the good name of those two individuals who came forward. Does the Commissioner appreciate that?

Mr. Martin Callinan: Of course I would hope that whatever important work this committee does, it would be conducted in a proper fashion. I am laying the facts before the committee as I know them and nothing more.

Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: Information on Mary Lou McDonald Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald Does Mr. Callinan accept that those facts are contested?

Mr. Martin Callinan: If the Deputy is telling me that she was advised that what I am saying is incorrect, of course I accept her word. As a responsible elected public representative, I would not expect anything less.

Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: Information on Mary Lou McDonald Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald It is not a case of my view or what I think or what I have been told. Solely on the basis of information that has been in the public domain for some time, it is clear that the facts as they were presented by the Commissioner today are contested. The two individuals concerned have very different accounts of events from March 2012 onwards.

Mr. Martin Callinan: If they have a different account, I have not heard from them in that regard.

Chairman: Information on John McGuinness Zoom on John McGuinness I did not interrupt Deputy McDonald because she was pursuing a particular line and dates but she is well past her time.

Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: Information on Mary Lou McDonald Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald I ask the Chairman to bear with me for two more minutes. The Commissioner described their behaviour as disgusting. It is a strong thing to say that they have carried themselves in a manner that is disgusting.

Mr. Martin Callinan: Correct. In the context of the manner in which they decided to pursue what they are pursuing, that is definitely something that I cannot accept at any level.

Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: Information on Mary Lou McDonald Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald I am also aware that the individuals concerned claim they were isolated in their workplaces. They felt they were victimised to whatever extent. One of them subsequently left the service of An Garda Síochána. Does the Commissioner not accept it would be difficult for them to hear him use a word like "disgusting" to describe their behaviour?

Mr. Martin Callinan: I do not know whether the Deputy was here earlier when we were discussing this point. There are live actions in the High Court in respect of these two people. I am not going to enter into that province because I will have an opportunity to air my particular views in the context of what the Deputy is now putting forward in the courts. That is where I intend to-----

Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: Information on Mary Lou McDonald Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald That is all right but it was the Commissioner and not I who offered up the term "disgusting". I am simply saying that is a strong term.

Mr. Martin Callinan: I agreed with the Deputy that it is a strong term. It reflects my view.

Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: Information on Mary Lou McDonald Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald On reflection, the Commissioner remains of that view.

Mr. Martin Callinan: Yes.

Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: Information on Mary Lou McDonald Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald What will happen to the individuals when they appear before this committee? What are the consequences for them or will there be consequences for them?

Mr. Martin Callinan: The Deputy will appreciate that now that I am aware they have been invited, I will have to take further advice. I have already aired my views on what should happen and have stated that the property should be returned to me. The committee has taken legal advice, as is its entitlement, and I respect that. I, in turn, will take further legal advice and I will decide then what is best for An Garda Síochána in the context of what we are now hearing.

Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: Information on Mary Lou McDonald Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald What message does the Commissioner think that might send to other serving gardaí who might have some information or who might be minded to come forward and to be whistleblowers? I note that the Commissioner referred to the individuals as "so-called whistleblowers". Is he concerned that his approach to this matter and his approach at this committee today might send a very negative signal to officers doing their duty and shake their confidence in the process and the protection they might be afforded should they step forward? Whatever his view, these individuals had no confidence in the internal procedures and they almost felt goaded to go to outside agencies, including Members of the Oireachtas.

Mr. Martin Callinan: I have no concerns whatsoever in the context of the confidential reporting mechanism that is set up and well established in An Garda Síochána. It has been working very well for quite a number of years. To repeat what I said earlier, if anybody has any wrongdoing to report, they have a clear responsibility as members of An Garda Síochána to report those matters. There is a process of doing that up through the authorities or going through the confidential reporting mechanism.


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