By James Peart
Whistle-blowers and scapegoats have a lot in common, indeed as any good Catholic family will reveal, they are sometimes one and the same. Those who speak unwanted truths about other members of their family, according to family psychiatrist Robin Skinner, are rounded on, like Jackals suddenly sidle up to the lame animal in the herd. Human behaviour diverges from that of the animal kingdom, however, in that there are two possible outcomes: the person in question, in any muck-raking scandal, is either discredited and the problem goes away, or this person is vindicated, the charges stick, and the group has to suddenly tackle pressure from outside. In the first case, unbelievably, Skinner contests, the group, having ostracized the victim, makes a serious attempt to get him back within the family fold. Not to effect any form of true rapprochement, you understand, but to have someone to blame once again for their (mis)deeds. It’s basic projection at its best, the blueprints for which any Swiss finishing school debutante could supply you with.
When Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan was replaced by Noirin O’Sullivan, having retired for no clear reason, was this because Maurice McCabe had already been discredited in the minds of many, and there was no one around to blame, and for what? Enda Kenny sent a senior civil servant to meet with Callinan after McCabe was falsely charged, and a day later Callinan retired. O’Sullivan also left the post of Garda Commissioner due to ‘flack’ taking.
The penalty points scandal has traction, it’s going to run and run. There have been and will continue to be other scapegoats. The corporate world is, nominally at least, more open to the idea of whistleblowing, as there is a measurable payoff. If a company displays waste or bad behaviour, this can be identified in its inefficiencies and it will lose money, perhaps close down if something isn’t done about it. There is pressure from inside to fix the problem, even if a whistle-blower brings it to the attention of an outside agent. But in a state-run institution, the pressure is more external, the apportioning of blame internal. Corporate trouble-shooter John Harvey Jones said about the South Yorkshire Police Force when he was brought in to improve that organisation, “this strategic plan is a load of bloody cobblers.” Jones realised that a body such as the SYPF doesn’t operate on a profit-performance model, and as such is allowed to become potentially more corrupt than a bottom-line organisation. Needless to say, his laddish good humour and bumbling geniality was not appreciated by the Chief Constable.
Companies can weigh the benefits and risks of what a third party says about their behaviour, while the police have no measurable payoff for such entertainment of ideas. Yet both can cut off the whistle-blower’s oxygen, if desirable.
In December 2012, McCabe was banned from using Pulse, the Garda’s communication and data storage system which he’d used to investigate questionable behaviour in the doling out or quashing of penalty points. Allegedly quashing penalty points for favoured individuals is one thing, but doling them out when no offence has occurred is another entirely. In May 2014, Garda Nick Keogh told a retired judge that senior Gardai were inflating crime statistics by incentivising people to buy drugs from dealers and sell them to undercover officers, thus manufacturing a ‘collar.’ Hello Entrapment, how are ye? Have we learned nothing from the Hollywood churn-bucket of crime movies, you know the ones where Sean Connery, playing a thief, gets off on just this sort of technicality? But just not in this country?
Policing the Police
The Gardaí wield a powerful baton when it comes to penalising scapegoats- they are in the punishment business after all. The Latin phrase Quis Custodet Custodes Ipsos? springs to mind (who will guard the guards themselves?). The Infernal Repairs (whoops, I mean Internal Affairs) that go on behind closed doors in our police force isn’t exactly confidence inspiring.
If all this is too much, you can always make a complaint to the Garda Ombudsman, the GSOC. They’re there to help, after all, to handle your objections, nursing your grumbles before they become great heaving tumours. Your complaint will be dealt with by means of informal resolution, by the way- this is one of the ways they handle it, according to the official GSOC letter. Well, they’ve certainly done that. Good luck to you.
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