By Luke Ming Flanagan
It’s been one hell of a year. From proofing a by election leaflet in the maternity ward of Ballinasloe hospital to meeting a Garda whistleblower down a country lane in Offaly only to be given information on allegations of drug dealing within the “force”. On the former two, both deliveries have went well. At this stage the baby is sleeping the night and Michael FitzMaurice is awakening rural Ireland. On the latter issue of the Garda whistleblowers the story is a lot different. Anything but a successful birth. Traumatic in fact. At a time when it’s all meant to have changed.
New policing bill. New commissioner. New minister. Two of the Garda whistleblowers have even been made ‘people of the year’. But what does this mean in reality for those who have taken the greatest risk with their families and careers in an attempt to expose corruption. In the case of John Wilson it means being out of a job and with no proper income in the run up to Christmas. I hear some say he has pension. Not a lot of use at 50 with a mortgage. He had this week to face the ignomy of having to sell his car to survive. It all very well to become ‘person of the year’ but as my mother used to say about beautiful scenery- “it’s lovely but you can’t eat it.” It begs the question. Why hasn’t John Wilson been asked does he want his job back? If he was, he’d take it. Oh but he retired. He did my arse. He was forced out.
In the case of Nicky Keogh, who is still a serving Garda, it has meant the daily grinding torture of being bullied. This is going on now as you read this. This is an individual who has risked everything by bringing forward important information. Is it any wonder though that he is being bullied. What should have been a short sharp investigation has in fact dragged on at a snails pace. We have a Taoiseach who belittled the allegations when I initially raised them at Leaders questions, something he was later forced to retract. Too late though. The die was cast. In the weeks after the latest failure by the state in St Attractas, where we crave openness and transparency, the very people who are trying to kick in the door to let in some light are they themselves in full public view being kicked in the head.
People will say that surely the state cares if allegations of drug dealing within the Garda Siochana are brought forward. Why wouldn’t the state car? If there was even a scintilla of evidence of corruption then the state would surely leap to the rescue? Not only does the state fail to leap to the rescue the state in fact leaps in the way of those who try to put it right.
The core problem we have is in how we govern. Our primary building block of governance, the Local Council not only embodies a system of ‘Shut The Fuck Up’ but breeds it. The councillors who keep the quietest about money being wasted get their grievances dealt with first. Furthermore those who stand up against waste are described as being disrespectful of the ‘executive’. This philosophy is carried up to National level when the same Councillors are elected to the Dáil. After years of following the maxim of ‘say nothing and everything will be alright’ when they finally get to the stage where they end up running the country it is beyond their ability to change.
So as things stand if you have information that something untoward is going on in a state agency what should you do? Well it looks like you should shut up and say nothing. That is the message. Right from the top. If you don’t you will end up either unemployed and penniless or employed but mentally tortured. It’s like the school culture of “The Lick” has leapt across the barriers of childishness and become the philosophy of our instituons.
So this years message from the ‘Republic’ of Ireland to all whistleblowers is to shut your mouth and go away.