GUBU is the acronym being commonly used to describe the chain of events surrounding the concerted campaign by senior Garda officers to smear the character of Sergeant Maurice McCabe in order to destroy the credibility of his claims of malpractice in the police force. Joe Higgins analyses the scandal surrounding the smearing of whistleblower Maurice McCabe.
In fact, of the four adjectives making up this acronym, ‘grotesque’, ‘unbelievable’, ‘bizarre’ and ‘unprecedented’, only the use of ‘grotesque’ is appropriate. That senior Gardaí acted in this way is not ‘unbelievable’ or ‘unprecedented’ – it happened before in differing ways. And while it may seem ‘bizarre’ to any fairminded person, there is in fact a twisted logic to these actions from the point of view of both the senior Garda and political establishment.
Ruthless methods exposed
The tactics used to try and undermine the credibility of McCabe were ruthless in the extreme.They amounted to no less than a cold blooded attempt to destroy the man himself, and not just as a member of the Garda, but as a human being, a husband and a father of four children.
A currently serving Superintendent, David Taylor, who was the Garda Press Officer, has made explosive allegations in a ‘protected disclosure’ in the autumn of 2016. A protected disclosure arises under legislation passed in the Dáil in 2014 whereby ‘whistleblowers’ are protected “from the taking of action against them in respect of the making of certain disclosures in the public interest.”
Taylor claims he was instructed by former Garda Commissioner Callinan and/or the current Commissioner O‘Sullivan, to brief journalists that Maurice McCabe was motivated by maliciousness and revenge regarding the claims he was making about malpractices in the Garda, and that he was suspected of a serious criminal offence. This was bad enough but even worse, it is believed that some witnesses will state at the Tribunal of Inquiry that Callinan in private conversations explicitly spelled out crimes of sexual abuse of which McCabe was supposed to be guilty.
Government feeling the pressure
The significance and seriousness of the position that the most senior leadership of the police force in this State now find themselves in cannot be overstated. Because of the outrage over the alleged Garda actions the Government had no option but to include in the Terms of Reference of the Tribunal put before the Dáil, very specific directions as to what questions it must answer. These include:
“[c] To investigate what knowledge former Commissioner Callinan and/or Commissioner O’Sullivan and/or other senior members of the Garda Síochána had concerning this allegation of criminal misconduct made against Sergeant McCabe andwhether they acted upon same in a manner intended to discredit Sergeant McCabe.[d] To investigate the creation, distribution and use by TUSLA of a file containingfalse allegations of sexual abuse against Sergeant Maurice McCabe that was allegedly sent to Gardaí in 2013, and whether these false allegations and/or the file wereknowingly used by senior members of An Garda Síochána to discredit SergeantMcCabe. [f] To investigate whether senior members of An Garda Síochána attempted to entrapor falsely accuse Sergeant McCabe of criminal misconduct.”
The Tribunal is also required to examine all records relating to the texts and other communications used by Superintendent Taylor, former Commissioner Callinan and Commissioner O’Sullivan relating to the allegations.
While there have been a number of previous Tribunals relating to Garda issues, never in the history of the State have the very top of the police force faced the kind of accusations involved here. We now have a situation where, beginning probably in the months of March or April, these most senior police authorities will face a daily grilling in the full glare of public scrutiny by representatives of Maurice McCabe and others.
Inevitably there will be sharp contradictory evidence given but ordinary people will be able to draw their own conclusions. It will be remembered how the position of former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern visibly disintegrated during the Mahon Tribunal when evidence emerged of monies he received while in senior office including a suitcase of cash making its way into his possession. His attempts to explain were met with derisive cynicism.
It is not just the top echelons of the Garda that are in the dock in relation to this saga, but equally the role of the political establishment must be fully exposed. The reality is that the Fine Gael/Labour government tolerated the undermining of Maurice McCabe and shielded the Garda leadership for as long as they could. When it was clear that there were serious malpractices in the force in the dealing with the penalty points system and in relation to how criminal issues were dealt with, instead of immediately having a root and branch intervention, former Fine Gael Minister for Justice Shatter protected the top brass all the way and made statements that could contribute to discredit the whistleblowers.
It is an important development that working-class people are becoming conscious of the rotten role of the Irish state and its undemocratic character. The unwillingness of the political establishment to effectively oppose the actions of the Gardaí in this smear scandal illustrates that they do not want to oppose a key tool of the capitalist class to defend its power and position in society
The ordeal that Maurice McCabe and his family were put through by the capitalist establishment is all the more reason why we must build a powerful socialist left to oppose it and the parties it represents. This is the task the Socialist Party and the AAA has set itself in the weeks and months ahead.