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Irish Independent - - News - Ed­die Mol­loy Dr Ed­die Mol­loy is an in­de­pen­dent man­age­ment con­sul­tant and mem­ber of the Com­mis­sion on the Fu­ture of Polic­ing in Ire­land

ALL judges are con­cerned to es­tab­lish the truth in the cases that come be­fore them, but truth, and more so its po­lar op­po­site, ly­ing, is so trou­bling to Mr Jus­tice Peter Charleton that he felt com­pelled to write a schol­arly book about ly­ing and its dis­as­trous con­se­quences for in­di­vid­u­als, in­sti­tu­tions and na­tions.

In the pref­ace to ‘Lies in a Mir­ror: an Es­say on Evil and De­ceit’ (Black­hall Pub­lish­ing, 2006), he dis­closes that: “The pat­terns of evil that I have ob­served over 25 years of prac­tice as a lawyer ul­ti­mately be­came so trou­ble­some that I had to try to make some sense of what con­fronted me ev­ery week.” Chap­ter 1, ‘The Dy­namic of Evil’, be­gins: “There is a lie be­hind ev­ery crime.”

The Mor­ris Tri­bunal, in which he served as a se­nior coun­sel, was un­der way for four years when his book was pub­lished. So it is no sur­prise that his sear­ing ex­pe­ri­ence of ram­pant ly­ing to Judge Mor­ris res­onates through­out his Dis­clo­sures Tri­bunal Re­port. He sees the sim­i­lar­i­ties and is dis­mayed that so lit­tle has changed in the mean­time. “This tri­bunal has been about call­ing the po­lice force to ac­count. The Mor­ris and O’Hig­gins tri­bunals were about the same thing. Cen­tral to th­ese in­quiries has been the truth.”

There is much more to the find­ings of the Dis­clo­sures Tri­bunal than the vin­di­ca­tion of Mau­rice McCabe. Like Mor­ris, Charleton ex­poses a per­sis­tent, deep-seated malaise in the fab­ric of An Garda Síochána with ram­i­fi­ca­tions far be­yond the par­tic­u­lar case.

In ‘Lies in a Mir­ror’, he ex­plains the dy­namic of evil. An in­di­vid­ual or group is firstly framed by a lie that they are a threat to the in­sti­tu­tion or so­ci­ety, for ex­am­ple Jews in Ger­many; “le­git­i­mate tar­gets” in North­ern Ire­land; CNN, the press in the US; or, in this case, “dis­gust­ing” whis­tle-blow­ers in An Garda.

The con­se­quences of spread­ing th­ese lies are that they le­git­imise os­traci­sa­tion, per­se­cu­tion or worse. Some of Mau­rice McCabe’s col­leagues joined in the cam­paign of in­nu­endo and vil­i­fi­ca­tion, treat­ing him as a pariah; Garda unions hes­i­tated to sup­port him; and when it came to the Dis­clo­sures Tri­bunal, of 430 se­nior of­fi­cers in­vited to tell what they knew, only two came for­ward. Such chill­ing con­se­quences then act as a warn­ing to any­one else who might dare to speak up.

Peo­ple who chal­lenge the pre­vail­ing cul­ture serve a re­demp­tive func­tion in or­gan­i­sa­tions, as ex­plained in ‘Lies in a Mir­ror’. Or­gan­i­sa­tions trapped in the myth of their own good­ness, and the cor­re­spond­ing bad­ness of those who chal­lenge and hold them to ac­count, have lost the ca­pac­ity for re­flec­tion. In the Dis­clo­sures Re­port, Charleton says: “The gar­daí of­fered no crit­i­cism of them­selves.”

He em­pha­sises that: “A cul­tural shift re­quir­ing re­spect for the truth is needed.” The size of this chal­lenge was high­lighted by the cul­tural au­dit of An Garda Síochána, which I over­saw with Prof Mary-Rose Gre­ville of TCD in May. The low­est score on the as­sess­ment of com­pli­ance with the Code of Ethics was “speak­ing up and re­port­ing wrong­do­ing” (a score of 5.5 out of

10). Be­hind this head­line, “there is a lack of sup­port for col­leagues when they speak up” (5.3); “nor are col­leagues treated fairly when they do” (4.8).

A good start, there­fore, to break­ing the stran­gle-hold of the in­her­ited cul­tural web is the ap­point­ment of an out­sider as the new com­mis­sioner. Any re­former, how­ever, will en­coun­sign ter a sig­nif­i­cant co­hort of se­nior peo­ple whose ma­lign in­flu­ence is at the root of the end­lessly re­cur­ring polic­ing scan­dals. Th­ese peo­ple will not just roll over. They have too much to lose. They will linger on in the shad­ows, only to emerge again, stronger than ever when the fuss over this lat­est ex­plo­sive re­port dies down.

There­fore, the com­mis­sioner needs the free­dom and re­sources to trans­form the apex of An Garda, en­sur­ing that, for a start, those hold­ing the top 60-80 posts pos­sess the right mix of pro­fes­sional, tech­ni­cal and man­age­rial skills and, cru­cially, ex­hibit a gen­uine per­sonal com­mit­ment to the Code of Ethics. By July this year, only 40pc of gar­daí had agreed to up to the Code of Ethics.

The Mor­ris, O’Hig­gins and Charleton tri­bunals are “about call­ing the po­lice force to ac­count” but, as noted, tri­bunals have had neg­li­gi­ble im­pact on An Garda. The Com­mis­sion on the Fu­ture of Polic­ing in Ire­land, of which I was a mem­ber, ad­dressed this in­tractable prob­lem and, in a mi­nor­ity opin­ion, Dr Vicky Con­way of DCU and I dis­agreed with the ma­jor­ity of mem­bers on how best to hold An Garda to ac­count.

The pre­sent­ing prob­lem was that Gsoc, which in­ves­ti­gates com­plaints against gar­daí, was in­ef­fec­tive due to weak un­der­pin­ning leg­is­la­tion, in­ad­e­quate re­sources and com­plaints-han­dling pro­cesses that were de­signed to fail. The Garda In­spec­torate had pro­duced 11 re­ports con­tain­ing hun­dreds of rec­om­men­da­tions that were ig­nored by An Garda. That is un­til the Polic­ing Au­thor­ity came along and be­gan, prob­a­bly for the first time in the his­tory of the force, to breach the walls of re­sis­tance to ex­ter­nal scrutiny and ac­count­abil­ity.

By July this year, only 40pc of gar­daí had agreed to sign up to the Code of Ethics

At pub­lic meet­ings and in pri­vate, the Au­thor­ity de­manded ex­pla­na­tions for fail­ure to im­ple­ment spe­cific rec­om­men­da­tions, for ex­am­ple re­gard­ing civil­ian­i­sa­tion, and force­fully chal­lenged wildly bo­gus Garda statis­tics about penalty points and breathal­y­sers. The work of th­ese over­sight bod­ies, in­clud­ing the thor­oughly pro­fes­sional, foren­sic scrutiny of An Garda by the Polic­ing Au­thor­ity was dis­missed in the Com­mis­sion’s re­port, The Fu­ture of Polic­ing in Ire­land, as re­flect­ing merely a “blame cul­ture that needs to be swept away”.

The real prob­lem all along has been that the de­sign of all three bod­ies was flawed from the out­set. Then, in­stead of fix­ing the ob­vi­ous weak­nesses, the ma­jor­ity Polic­ing Com­mis­sion rec­om­men­da­tion on ac­count­abil­ity is to neu­tralise the pesky Polic­ing Au­thor­ity and re­place it with a statu­tory “in­ter­nal” sup­port­ive board, sim­i­lar to the boards of State bod­ies like Bord na Móna or En­ter­prise Ire­land, and that this “in­ter­nal” board would re­port to the De­part­ment of Jus­tice.

Last Wed­nes­day, Com­mis­sion chair Kath­leen O’Toole and three other Com­mis­sion­ers who were in­vited to ap­pear be­fore the Oireach­tas Jus­tice Com­mit­tee de­fended the ma­jor­ity opin­ion.

When Matthew Elder­field came to Ire­land to clean up the mess af­ter the fail­ure of bank­ing reg­u­la­tion, he said what was needed was “in­va­sive scrutiny and ef­fec­tive sanc­tions”. We still don’t have that in bank­ing, hence within a year of the cat­a­strophic col­lapse of the banks, we had the tracker mort­gage scan­dal.

All banks have boards com­prised of the great and good who are pro­posed for mem­ber­ship of the “in­ter­nal” Garda board. Fur­ther­more, I don’t be­lieve even the banks would char­ac­terise their boards as “in­ter­nal”.

Mr Jus­tice Charleton wearily con­cludes his Dis­clo­sures Re­port: “It has been a dread­ful strug­gle to un­cover what may have gone on be­hind closed doors.” The ma­jor­ity rec­om­men­da­tion of the Com­mis­sion on the Fu­ture of Polic­ing would close th­ese doors even tighter, just when the Polic­ing Au­thor­ity was be­gin­ning to prise them open in pur­suit of trans­parency and ac­count­abil­ity.

If im­ple­mented, this rec­om­men­da­tion would be a back­ward step in ef­forts to ex­or­cise the cul­ture of sup­press­ing healthy in­ter­nal dis­sent, ly­ing and cover-up that has be­dev­illed An Garda Síochána for decades.

PHOTO: COLLINS

Vin­di­cated: Sergeant Mau­rice McCabe with his wife Lor­raine at the Dis­clo­sures Tri­bunal in Dublin Cas­tle last year.

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