The theme of a posting I put up three weeks ago concerned the role of the Garda in pursuing the Jobstown prosecutions and how their stock in the eyes of the public had plummeted in recent years not least due to their role in the water charges movement.
In the intervening three weeks we have observed:
- The existence of up to forty unauthorised bank accounts centred around Templemore Garda training college which were operating as a slush fund and the efforts of senior Gardaí to obstruct civilian management within the organisation investigating this
- The complete degradation of Dara Quigley days before her tragic suicide
- Headlines regarding a significant jump in Garda surveillance including at least one occurrence of surveillance of a Minister’s constituency rival
Coupled with the last point is the victimisation of another Garda whistleblower who objected to the completely inappropriate surveillance practices.
Gene Kerrigan in last weekend’s Sunday Independent referred to the typical Fine Gael response, personified in Frances Fitzgerald’s ongoing defence of the Commissioner, that 99% of Guards are ok.
This is a cliché that is not supported by the evidence we have available. The scale and geographical spread for example of the 900,000 plus false breadth tests suggest that from top to bottom there is an outright rotten minority that exceeds 1% of the force. More serious however is the sizeable chunk of the 13,000 Gardaí who while not actively corrupt in their practice clearly observe it in others, effectively tolerate and enable it or are paralysed by fear of the consequences of making a stand against it
To those who would object and claim that this is an exaggeration you only have to observe how few whistleblowers have come to the fore and how the Garda institutions have treated them.
The recent conferences of the Garda Representative Association and the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors shows us again that as an organisation they are unreformable. They cannot deny the volume of scandals but reading between the lines their spokespeople feel that we should cut them some slack because of the hazardous job they have to do.
They can rest assured that Fine Gael has a big supply of slack. There is a close historical association between Fine Gael and the Gardaí. The first Garda Commissioner Eoin O’Duffy and elements of Fine Gael’s predecessor party Cumann na nGaedheal together contemplated obstructing Fianna Fáil’s assumption to power in 1932 on the basis of an undue concern that DeValera’s government would not protect the core interests of the southern establishment.
O’Duffy’s subsequent dismissal as Commissioner saw him step up his dabbling in right wing authoritarian politics under the guise of the Army Comrades Association (Blueshirts) which later merged with Cumann na nGaedheal and smaller right wing parties to form the Fine Gael we know today.
It was under the Fine Gael Labour coalition of 1973 to 1977 that the Garda “heavy gang” was given free reign to beat confessions out of republilcans. Likewise that period saw the introduction of the repressive Emergency Powers Act enabling the Guards to detain somebody for up to seven days.
So draconian was this legislation the then President Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh referred it to the Supreme Court to check its constitutionality provoking the public rage of the then Minister for Defence Paddy Donnegan who was reported to have referred to the President as a “thundering disgrace” or worse precipitating Ó Dálaigh’s resignation from the office of President.
The point of digging up these historical examples is to demonstrate that then as now Fine Gael will go to the limits and beyond even at the expense of provoking a constitutional crisis to back up the Garda, and the fact the Garda Commissioner knows this explains her breath-taking arrogance.