By Colm McCarthy
The crisis caused by the smearing of Garda whistleblowers is far from over. To date, this scandal has led to the resignation of two Garda commissioners, two Justice Ministers and a Taoiseach, as well as almost bringing the government to the point of collapse in November.
Frances Fitzgerald was the latest to resign in December as a result of this scandal. The mounting evidence clearly showed that she knew about what has been euphemistically referred to as the “aggressive stance” that the Garda legal team were planning on using against Maurice McCabe in the O’Higgins Inquiry in 2015. This meant using fabricated allegations of sexual abuse sourced from Tusla, the state’s child protection agency, to smear McCabe.
The government’s latest attempt to de-fuse the ongoing crisis, the Charleston Inquiry, resumed sitting on January 8. It was immediately made apparent just how false the defence mounted by senior government figures of Frances Fitzgerald was. Not only did the Gardaí inform the Department of Justice of its legal strategy in the O’Higgins inquiry, it sought its guidance. The fact senior civil servants were involved in this exposes the cesspit that is the Department of Justice.
Leo Varadkar’s declaration that Frances Fitzgerald resigning over her role would be an injustice on par with that done to McCabe looks all the more rotten against this backdrop. It shows how further revelations about Garda corruption have the potential to pull the rug from under both this government and the establishment more generally.
Fianna Fáil have characteristically played both sides. On the one hand they have threatened to bring down the government over Fitzgerald’s handling of the issue, on the other, just last April they voted confidence in Noirín O’Sullivan, after her role in the scandal was widely known.
The attitude of the Gardaí leadership to dissent can be seen in the fact that Noirín O’Sullivan’s husband personally oversaw Operation Mizen surveillance of water charges activists.
O’Sullivan herself is alleged to have asked an interviewee for the position of deputy commissioner in 2015 as to their opinion on “left wing political extremism in Ireland.” This reached its apex in the trials and attempted jailing of the Jobstown protestors on trumped up charges of false imprisonment.
Inside the Gardaí
There can be little surprise that the tactics Gardaí uses internally against critics and whistleblowers is turned against political threats. One of the methods used by senior Gardaí is the use of pet journalists to act as their mouthpieces. One such journalist, Paul Williams went so far as to publish the false allegations against McCabe without naming him, to avoid being sued for libel.
The collusion between senior Gardaí, government ministers and the “permanent government” in the Department of Justice to defame critics cannot be seen in isolation but rather as the modus operandi of the anti-democratic state we live under. It poses in turn the question of building a socialist left to rid us of Ireland’s rotten ruling class.