A decade-long fight by Garda Sergeant Maurice McCabe to end police corruption was met with obstruction by Irish authorities at every twist and turn, including the country’s most senior Garda, PJ Cunningham reports.
Ten years ago Garda Sergeant Maurice McCabe made complaints to his superiors in a bid to end what he saw as shoddy practices within the police force in Co. Cavan where he was serving.
What followed was a litany of headline-grabbing scandals that almost drove the officer to take his own life after he was falsely labelled a paedophile in a whispering campaign orchestrated from the very top of the force.
A public tribunal chaired by one of Ireland’s most senior judges, the Honourable Mr Justice Peter Charleton, last month found that former Commissioner Callinan and former press officer, Garda Superintendent David Taylor had orchestrated a “campaign of calumny” against Mr McCabe by deliberately and falsely tying him to allegations of child sexual assault.
The very recently retired Garda sergeant is now in line to receive up to €5 million from the State because its officers plotted to destroy his good name.
Whistleblower McCabe said that if he had known then how much abuse he and his family would be subjected to merely for trying to do the right thing as a citizen he would never have done it.
Judge Charleton’s tribunal found Garda McCabe’s superiors – and, by extension, the Irish journalists who colluded with them – to have been thoroughly “rotten” and “nasty”.
Garda McCabe told his local newspaper, The Anglo Celt, that it felt “amazing” – after so many years – to be fully vindicated:
“It was fantastic to be completely exonerated. Mr Justice Charleton just said ‘this man did a considerable service to the people of Ireland.’ It was great.”
McCabe had to endure eight years of calumny, detraction and official harassment as his story made its way through the Dail, Oireachtas special committees, public inquiries and internal Garda internal investigations.
The Mount Nugent man’s single-mindedness led to the resignations of two Justice ministers and the early retirements of two Garda Commissioners.
But for the support of his wife Lorraine and their family his own inner fortitude could have been crushed by the false claims of his superiors as they sought to discredit him.
He highlighted how penalty points for motoring offences were routinely being quashed by senior officers for certain people – at a huge financial cost to the state.
His access to that database was immediately rescinded and an official internal inquiry found that while some rules had been broken, there was no criminality.
Four years ago the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) examined just how much traffic penalties’ revenue was being lost.
It was told by the then Garda Commissioner, Martin Callinan – the country’s most senior police officer – that McCabe and his allegations were “disgusting”.
Callinan threatened the PAC chairman John McGuinness, at a secret meeting in a hotel car park, that he would be “in big trouble” if he sided with the whistleblower.
Since Mr Justice Charleton’s unequivocal findings that the Garda Commissioner conspired to falsely label McCabe a paedophile and sex offender to discredit his allegation, there has been a huge public outcry against the decision by the Irish government to pay the very considerable legal fees of the disgraced former Garda Commissioner in the forthcoming case.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar – who previously described Sergeant McCabe as ‘distinguished’ and ‘heroic’ – said he hoped the forthcoming cases could be settled out of court and just disappear.
He told the Dail last week: “I would like to see this case settled and I hope it can be settled to the satisfaction of Maurice McCabe and Lorraine (his wife), sooner rather than later.”
The newly appointed Garda Commissioner Drew Harris, who was recruited from the PSNI with a brief to clean up Ireland’s police, has let it be known he is very unhappy that Mr Callinan’s defence is being state-funded.
To add to Mr Callinan’s woes, Ireland’s Attorney General has been asked if the Irish government can pursue the former Garda Commissioner for any of compensation it will have to pay Mr McCabe.