Above: Kerz knocked it out of the park with his illustrations for this feature in #rabble14. He previously delivered the goods on Stephen Donnelly for Gombeen #13. To see his work in all its inky glory, go cop yourself this article in print.
Nóirín O’Sullivan finally resigned back in September but the Garda scandals just keep on coming. Gemma Hyland delved into some of the more recent scandals in the force for #rabble14. We’d barely gone to print and another one erupted, as Frances Fitzgerald struggles with selective memory over the Maurice McCabe affair.
1. Sitting in the Way of Control
The bungled attempt to frame peaceful protesters in the Jobstown show-trial brought the workings of the state into clear view, with a whole herd of Guards paraded up onto the witness stand to give evidence against Paul Murphy and the other defendants. Their testimony started to look decidedly dodgy when compared with video evidence of the scene. In the end the judge had to tell the jury that video evidence “must be regarded by you as the primary and most reliable source” in making their decision – implicitly telling them to disregard everything the Gardaí had said.
Yet the Irish media have chosen to focus more on activists tweeting in the courtroom, than on the bare-faced, politically-motivated lies of Gardaí in the witness stand. You might think Gardaí who knowingly gave false evidence in court in order to get a conviction for political reasons would face perjury charges, but don’t hold your breath for it here.
2. Taking the Nation’s Pulse
Back in 2014 we learnt that the Gardaí, like their brothers in blue over in the States or across the pond in the UK, were engaging in broad-ranging ethnic profiling of minorities – in this case the Travelling community, the most criminalized minority in the state.
Traveller children and even infants as young as 16 days old were registered as criminals on the Garda PULSE database. Two children of one and two years old were registered as criminals when their parents went to a Garda station to get them passports.
3. Shell Hell
Back when the people of Rossport Co. Mayo were protesting the clearance sale of our national resources, the government brought in the full force of state repression to protect Shell’s interests. The images of snarling crowds of Guards blotting out the Mayo landscape were a stark illustration of where the state’s loyalties lay. But things got worse when a recording emerged of two Guards joking about raping two women protesters they had just arrested if they didn’t cooperate. But wouldn’t ya know it, all five Gardaí involved in the “rape tape” scandal were cleared of all charges.
4. Maybe she just fell over?
Would you trust the Gardaí to take domestic violence and abuse seriously? Turns out their statistics for reported cases of domestic violence are way too low to make any sense. In 2016 they recorded about 5000 cases, while the Northern Irish police force, dealing with only half the population size, recorded 29,000, prompting women’s rights groups to point out that there must be something going on here. Either the Guards are messing about with the numbers, or they just don’t give a shit about domestic abuse.
5. A Million Holes Scratched
In a manipulation of statistics worthy of our Minister for Housing, it was discovered this year that our boys in blue had recorded almost a million more breath-tests for drink-driving than really happened. They had recorded nearly 2 million breath-tests, but had managed only to use just over a million breathalyzer kits. Ya get the feeling that after a long evening of sitting in the station drinking tae and scratching their holes they’d fill in a bit of paperwork just to make it look like they were doing something.
6. Don’t’cha know a Guard?
In 2012 whistleblowers within the Gardaí brought to light that there was widespread abuse of powers by senior officers going on in the penalty point system, with hundreds of people getting penalty points removed from their license, just because they ‘knew a Guard.’
Gemma O’Doherty the Indo journalist (the same journo who broke the story of ethnic profiling of Traveller children by the Guards) who was following up a story that Martin Callinan, the Garda Commissioner himself, might even have had points taken off his license, was promptly fired, seemingly for doing her job a bit too well in a newspaper owned by Denis O’Brien.
7. How Dare Clare
In 2013, Clare Daly, the left-wing independent TD, who had been outspoken in her stance on Garda malpractice in the penalty point issue found herself pulled over, breathalyzed, arrested for drink-driving and handcuffed at the side of the road. Though she turned out to be under the legal limit, the details of her arrest were leaked by the Gardaí in an apparent attempt to discredit one of their fiercest critics.
The Garda Ombudsman looking at the case decided that there was “insufficient evidence” to bother their arses investigating the Gardaí who had leaked her arrest to the press. No surprises there so.
8. Whistleblower or Snitch
But the biggest scandal was yet to come. This year it came out that Maurice McCabe, the Garda whistleblower who brought the penalty points scandal up for air, had been the victim of a decade-long campaign to smear his reputation by associating him with allegations of child abuse that had already been found to be groundless. The attempt to destroy the life of a rare decent man in the force reached deep into the upper ranks of the Gardaí and the political establishment.
In the end, it was this scandal that finally put the pressure on Enda Kenny to step down, when he gave what he called ‘wrong information’ about when he heard about the scandal – he said first he’d heard it on the news, but Katherine Zappone contradicted him, saying she’d told him the details of it earlier. But if this scandal eventually brought down the Taoiseach, he still managed to hang on for months afterwards.
And one person who was able to cling on for months no matter what it turns out she presided over was Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan – even as it emerged that the phone she had during the period when McCabe was being smeared has completely vanished, and with it all evidence of what Nóirín’s role in it was.
9. Garda Frauds Cheat Us All
Recently we also learnt that the staff of the Garda Training College in Templemore kept a neat little €125k of taxpayers money aside in 42 unauthorised bank accounts for senior officers to treat themselves to fancy dinners out, and for buying each other nice gifts when they retired, and even allegations of offshore bank accounts in the college’s name.
When the civilian head of HR at the college raised concerns, a senior Garda tried to claim that he was guilty of a crime just by asking questions that might damage the force. Niall Kelly, the civilian head of the group carrying out the audit of the College has also claimed that senior Gardaí tried to block his investigation and withheld information. As the investigation continues it’s even emerged that the police force might not be paying their taxes.
But shur a little scandal like the misuse of hundreds of thousands of euro won’t cause too much of a fuss, so what’s the harm?
10. That Never Goes Out
And finally and tragically there is the story of Dara Quigley. It’s often been repeated that she was a shining light for activism and journalism in Dublin, but that’s what she was. She was also a young woman with drug and mental health issues who was going through a very tough period in her life.
She was arrested in April in a very vulnerable situation, and Garda CCTV footage of her arrest was shared on a Garda Whatsapp group, and eventually found its way to Facebook, where it was viewed upwards of 100,000 times. A few days later, this outspoken young woman had committed suicide.
It blows the mind to think of what kind of culture has been fostered in the Guards where a bunch of men think it’s alright to share a video like that of a vulnerable young woman with each other and on social media in order to publicly and callously shame her. A woman has lost her life and the Garda who shared the video was suspended – on full pay!
In all of this we can only salute the few brave Garda whistleblowers that have stepped out of the mafia culture of silence in the force, and challenged power with the truth.