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Guerin, Fennelly, O'Higgins and O'Neill: A quick guide to garda whistleblowing

Sometimes they can be difficult to digest.

Garda Reserve graduation A garda graduation ceremony in Templemore Niall Carson / PA Images Niall Carson / PA Images / PA Images

IN THE LAST three years there’s been report after report and inquiry after inquiry about matters relating to An Garda Síochána.

Frequently shocking, often confusing but always worthwhile, the avalanche of information can nonetheless be difficult to digest.

These reports and inquiries are known by the name of the judge who chaired them, but with another one published today, we’ve put together guide to which is which.

February 2014

Penalty points report(s)

Three years ago this month the report by the Garda Inspectorate’s into the penalty points system was published.

Its proper title was: The Fixed Charge Processing System: A 21st Century Strategy. You can access it in full here.

The report found “consistent and widespread breaches“ by those charged with administering penalty points and made 37 recommendations for changes and improvements to the system.

The inspection had been requested by then Justice Minister Alan Shatter following allegations of corruption and favouritism in the penalty points system.

Whistleblower Maurice McCabe was among those to have made the allegations of wrongdoing.

The publication of the report did little to ease the pressure on Shatter and there were more and more calls for him to resign.

One person who did resign soon after was Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan.

Callinan retired from the force weeks after the report having previously branded the ongoing garda whistleblower disclosures as “quite disgusting.

Bock The Robber / YouTube

There were also other reports directly into the penalty points controversy including those by the Garda Síochána Ombudnsman Commission (GSOC) and the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

February 2014 
The Guerin Report

Nicky McFadden funeral Justice Minster Alan Shatter (centre) pictured at the funeral of a colleague in 2014. Brian Lawless / PA Brian Lawless / PA / PA

Senior counsel Seán Guerin was tasked with investigating allegations by Maurice McCabe that gardaí mishandled a series of cases involving abduction, assault and murder.

The report detailed a litany of dysfunction across the Cavan/Monaghan garda district in particular.

Among them it looked at the series of omissions and failures that led to the murder of Sylvia Roche Kelly by a man who was out on bail.

The Guerin Report also looked at how the whistleblowing allegations were handled within the Department of Justice.

Even before it was published, it claimed the job of Alan Shatter who stepped down as Justice Minister after reading just three chapters from it.

Shatter later launched a successful legal appeal against the report’s findings in relation to him.

90227707_90227707 Martin Callinan and Alan Shatter pictured in 2011. Eamonn Farrell / Eamonn Farrell / /

June 2014

The Cooke Report

The Cooke Report investigated the alleged bugging of the GSOC headquarters.

In his report, retired High Court judge John Cooke found no evidence of surveillance at the Dublin offices.

The report said that while it is impossible to rule out all possibility of covert surveillance, it was clear that the evidence does not support it.

The report was commissioned by Alan Shatter after a security firm picked up signals and wifi anomalies in a sweep of GSOC’s Dublin office.

The initial allegations were made public by The Sunday Times on 9 February 2014.


The Fennelly Commission

The Fennelly Commission was set up to look into a system that had been secretly recording phone calls in and out of dozens of garda stations around the country from the 1980s up to 2013.

The commission has not finished its work but has said that there are around 2,500 tapes which run to millions of hours of recording and that doing so is ”time consuming and labour intensive”.

It is also looking at the circumstances surrounding the departure of the Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan. Callinan’s departure was announced on the same day the government revealed the garda recordings.

The before he stepped down, the Taoiseach had sent Department of Justice secretary general Brian Purcell to Callinan’s home to stress the seriousness of the situation.

The commission has also already revealed that Callinan had eight to ten bags of his personal papers shredded after announcing his retirement.

April 2016

The O’Higgins report

Garda Commissioner before the Oireachtas Joint Committee Garda Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan arrives at Leinster House in Dublin. Brian Lawless / PA Wire Brian Lawless / PA Wire / PA Wire

The 362 page report of the O’Higgins Commission of Investigation into Certain Matters relative to the Cavan/Monaghan Division of An Garda Siochana was published last year.

It found that many victims of crime in Cavan were failed by gardaí because of deficiencies, resources and problems with management.

Specifically, it found that Bailieboro Garda Station operated with too many probationary gardaí without proper supervision.

It also detailed a list of different cases in which victims were let down.

The revelations ramped up the pressure on current Garda Commissioner Noirín O’Sullivan.

February 2017 

The O’Neill report

Today, a redacted report by Justice Iarfhlaith O’Neill has approved a commission of investigation into new whistleblower allegations.

The O’Neill report centres on allegations that a smear campaign against whistleblower Maurice McCabe was initiated by senior gardaí.

Read: You’re hearing a lot about garda whistleblowers today – here’s why >

Read: Nóirín O’Sullivan ‘made allegations of sexual crimes against Maurice McCabe to journalists’, Dáil hears >

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