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General Election ‘will be sooner rather than later’

Wednesday, 15th February, 2017 1:01am

The Government’s survival is dependent on the attitude of Fianna Fáil, according to Labour leader Brendan Howlin.

Speaking to the Galway Independent while on a visit to Galway City on Friday, the former Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform said that he had to think long and hard about raising the alleged campaign against whistleblower Maurice McCabe in the Dáil last week, but subsequent events have shown “it needed to be done”.

“Because what was done to Maurice McCabe, by any objective viewpoint, whether it was done – as is now suggested – by maladministration and clerical error or whether it was more sinister, however it happened, it is shocking beyond belief. I can’t imagine a more vicious attachment to anybody and Maurice and his family lived with that for a period of time.”

Clear investigation

He added there is a need to have a clear investigation into all matters surrounding the alleged campaign against Sgt McCabe, and in particular the circumstances of the Tusla allegations against him.

“I have asked, and I think it’s a reasonable request, for the Commissioner of An Garda Siochana to stand aside until all these matters are fully ventilated. She is entitled to the presumption of innocence, and there’s no presumption of anything else, but it would be normal for people in authority to stand aside when matters as serious as this are fully investigated.” Other questions arise from the Tulsa revelations, he added. “It is clear now that the Department of Children were fully informed of all these matters from at least last month because the Minister for Children in fact spoke to Maurice McCabe last month. It beggars belief that there would be discussion at cabinet on the establishment of a Commission of Inquiry and these matters wouldn’t be brought to the attention of Ministers by the Minister for Children.” It is “perplexing” that Tusla wasn’t included in Terms of References of the Charlton Commission, or referenced by the Tanaiste when she was asked in Dáil whether there were any other state agencies involved in the alleged campaign against Sgt McCabe, he added.

Government impact

Asked about the impact of the McCabe controversy on the Government, Deputy Howlin said the Government is, in essence, “depending for its survival on the attitude of Fianna Fáil”.

“It’s a fickle and difficult period in our political history because we have a government that really is not capable of doing important, definitive things because it doesn’t have the authority of the Dáil itself. I don’t know when there will be a general election but the events of the past 48 hours has made it more likely that it will be sooner rather than later.”

Whistleblowing

Deputy Howlin, who brought in whistleblowing legislation in 2014, said there is a robust structure in place for whistleblowers now but that what is much more difficult to achieve is a “cultural change” within organisations.

Institutions should welcome “the analysis of wrong” and correct it, rather than bury it and focus on the whistleblower, said Deputy Howlin, who campaigned for an investigation into garda corruption in Donegal in the 1990s, which led to the establishment of the Morris Tribunal.

“It has been a tortuous journey for Maurice McCabe and his family. If you are a member of An Garda Siochana and you saw wrongdoing, would you say, ‘I am not going to put myself and my family through that? I’m going to keep my mouth shut’. And that, I’m afraid, was too long the default position of too many people, for understandable reasons, in too many sectors of Irish society.”

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