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Garda voices on the whistleblower controversy: 'Morale in the force is in the toilet'

We asked members of the gardaí what impact the whistleblower controversy has had on the force.

Image: Press Association Images

AN GARDA SÍOCHANA has been in turmoil of late. Revelations have emerged because members of the force – garda whistleblowers – have come forward and raised issues of what they feel is wrongdoing within the force.

Garda whistleblower Maurice McCabe gave evidence to an Oireachtas committee stating that the force mishandled a series of cases involving abduction, assault and murder. There have also been issues raised with penalty points.

When the Garda Commissioner appeared before TDs at the Public Accounts Committee, he said it was “quite disgusting” that two people out of a force of 13,000 people are making “extraordinary serious allegations” and there is not “a whisper” from elsewhere in the force of “corruption or malpractice”.

TheJournal.ie have asked some members of the gardaí what impact they felt the continuing controversies have had on the force and whether they felt it was a deterrent to coming forward if they ever saw wrong-doing within the gardaí. The gardaí wish to remain anonymous.

On GSOC

The fact that the football field is the public domain is fierce harmful to both An Garda Síochana and the members in it.
From the outset, guards would be looking at GSOC as regards who is overseeing THEIR work, who is assessing the quality, who can you appeal to? Who is watching the watcher?
[The Garda Ombudsman] was throwing toys out of the cot because he wasn’t getting his way with the access to PULSE etc.
It’s a very bad system they have in place. Their approach to us is you’re guilty straight away without going into the investigation of the incident. It’s actually a poor organisation to be honest.
I don’t know too much exactly about what may or may not have happened but it [the bugging affair] was handled very badly in my opinion. If gardai leaked info like that before an investigation was even launched there would be murder- was there any genuine proof anything actually happened? Until that time it’s a bit of a non-event!
They have ruined young men’s lives by giving too much credence to ridiculous complaints. I have one specific example where a colleague was suspended for an unsubstantiated complaint. I will add that there does need to be an independent watchdog but lately I would not have confidence in GSOC, based on what’s been happening.
Would they bring it up if they thought a case was mishandled or if they had a complaint to make?
If someone cocked up, it’ll generally get talked about anyway. You might not get someone running up the stairs to tell but you will get someone passing it on whether it’s social over a cup or tea or something and then someone else passes that on…
It has never been easy to highlight or bring to light something that you think is wrong in the force, that is the way it has always been, it’s like that by design.
The whistleblower stuff just reinforces what most of us all ready know, we are there to just get on with the job. If I or someone else in the gardaí saw something that wasn’t right, you would think that there should be an avenue to go down, but look at what happens to those that do follow “procedure”.They are hung out to dry, not only by those they work for, but by our own minister. We are ridiculed by our own minister Shatter in the Dáil and called liars.
Why in god’s name would anyone ever bring anything forward, especially now. Members of the force have long felt that the Commissioner and Minister Shatter are too close, and we came so far as nearly voting no confidence in Alan Shatter and Commissioner Martin Callinan, that tells the story right there.
I’ve never had an incident but I don’t think I would bring it up. We were always taught on a system of you learn from your peers so you would be assuming that the person you’re looking up to is doing things the way they are supposed to be doing them.
Once it becomes known, the authorities deal with it.
There are a lot of people at station level who are extremely professional  and competent who I would get advice off.

What if a senior officer was involved?

In that case it just gets filed away and might not be scrutinised further than that – it gathers cobwebs in a drawer.
Rank protects rank – it has always been that way. If it is about someone over you, you might as well forget it.
I would never go beyond Sergeant level with any complaint for fear of internal discipline.

On doing their job

Lots of people are under pressure on the ground anyway because of changes on the ground and most of them just want to get on with the job and do it to the best of their ability – they have an interest in their career.
The changes that have been made to the way we work are putting everyone under a lot of pressure and it is making it harder for us to do our jobs.

On morale in the force:

I think the biggest problem is the lack of new members coming into the job. Therefore, there is a lack of transfers and opportunity to get onto specialist units as there is no new members taking the place of the guard on the street. This would apply to transfers to other stations too which affects moral.
It’s not as bad as you would think as the moaners always shout loudest. I think the pay cuts have been hard on the force but everyone is in the same boat. The recent scandals regarding penalty points has had no effect on regular guards as it has nothing to do with 99.9% of us.
I think there’s a bitter feeling in the job, it’s gone on too long and there’s no movement, like you can’t get into any specialist area and there’s no recruitment.”
There are people who are very confident in the job who are overlooked for promotions because of it”.
“I think a couple of people were overlooked for positions they were entitled to, they have enough service and have done enough time on the job that they deserved them.
The simple truth of it is morale in the force is in the toilet.

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