Monday 14 April 2014


All this year in Ireland , we have been having the vapours about police corruption and Garda whistle-blowers.  In January, the head of the Gardai Martin Callinan (taking the salute on the left) called the actions of Sgt Maurice McCabe "disgusting".  What McCabe (looking tired out on the right) had done was suggest that some well connected people - judges, Gardai, chap whose cousin is a Garda, husband of lady who cleans out the bins in Ballybogge Garda Barracks - had their penalty points for speeding quashed.  And not because they were trying to get someone to hospital and so had a reasonable excuse for driving a half-ton assault weapon too fast too close to pedestrians.  A transparent and rigidly honest organisation might have thanked him for exposing such dodgy practice.  We have penalty points because there is evidence that excessive speed on the roads kills people and we wish to discourage the practice without banging the perps (including Bob "Two-points" Scientist) up in chokey. We have a flexible and slightly grey official state in Ireland because that's what we want - you never know when you might need planning permission on a new shed or someone to bump your mother up the list for hip-replacement. In all organisations, however, grassing up your mates is deeply and systemically discouraged.  You have to trust each other because, in the army, in the police, in the fire-service your life may depend on your mates.  So it's an ethical and practical dilemma in which most of us don't behave very well. McCabe claims, again with the ring of truth, that his professional life is in rags since he decided to call it like he saw it. Commissioner Callinan's professional life is over: he was forced to fall on his sword by his boss at the Ministry of Justice.  Anyone who is not directly inculpated has been making political capital out of the situation - grandstanding, calling press-conferences and trying to get themselves into the photo, any photo - preferably in the local paper which all the voters read.

Notablespot-hogs are the members of the Dáil Éireann Public Accounts Committee, including the articulate and sassy Mary-Lou McDonald (Sinn Féin) and self-appointed scourge of corruption Shane Ross (Indep.) and the Chair John McGuinness (FF, Carlow-Kilkenny).  It's a tough job for a public representative but somebody has to do it. They are also laying into Rehab, a traditionally Fine Gael good works organisation which diverts a substantive chunk of their government funding to salary and pension of the senior executives. Rehab are currently taking the heat off the CRC, a traditionally Fianna Fáil good works organisation which diverts a substantive chunk of their government funding to salary and pension of the senior executives.  Am I the only one of the country who is reminded of Senator Joseph McCarthy and the parallel but unconnected House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) ?  Those worthies on the 1950s made hay (using a powerful metaphor chipper&shredder) out of root and branch extirpation of things of which they disapproved.

On the subject of not behaving very well, I've written about men bullying women with impunity in my own cosy academic organisation and also about tolerating innocent children duffing smaller children up, so that shopping your peers becomes established early as something that is streng verboten.  The title to the first of these links is "Nobody Died But . . ." and the same could be said about Frank "Paco" Serpico.  Like Maurice McCabe, Serpico was a police whistleblower: in the NYPD in the late 1960s and early 70s.  Corruption was rather more than doing a nixer for your neighbour about an inconvenient speeding rap.  Serpico used to see his colleagues pocketing half the evidence when they made plain-clothes drug-busts.  But then again, as my pal Pepe Malpica pointed out 20 years ago, Ireland will ever be in the ha'penny place when it comes to corruption.  Serpico complained about the behaviour of his colleagues to those higher up the NYPD food-chain and was either ignored or told to shut-up.  On 3rd Feb 1971, Serpico was shot in the face during a drug-raid and there is a strong suspicion that he was set up to take the hit by his team.  Certainly they let him bleed on the floor rather than making a "Man Down" call to get medical help instanter. I don't think that the quashers of penalty points would do that to McCabe.  Although no Garda would get one of their own murdered, it is clear from the Smithwick Tribunal that some of them were happy to call the shots (literally) on their oppos from the RUC. Or if not exactly happy, not unhappy enough through “some misguided sense of loyalty” to identify their colleague(s) who was more inclined towards IRA than RUC. Serpico is retired now and celebrating his 78th birthday today.  The world, not just NYC because the they made a compelling film of his story, is a better place for his actions.

1 comment:

  1. I got three points and a fine for breaking the limit into Borris. I told the Garda he was right (which worried him), that the signs were obvious enough and that I could easily have avoided the offence by not speeding! I paid my fine in Kilkenny happily enough.

    The GoSafe Vans and Garda checkpoints have made the roads much safer and more pleasant to drive on.

    I absolutely resent the abuse of the system by the Gardai and their friends. It is not victimless. The more people speed, the more are killed and the penalty points system encourages better behaviour (in me especially).