herald

Wednesday 20 September 2017

Gerry O'Carroll: Tetchy Dermo ain't goin to hand lifeline to whisteblowers

Has our Justice Minister undergone a dramatic conversion? Are my eyes deceiving me or is it true that tetchy Dermo Ahern is favourably disposed to enshrining in law a whistleblower's charter?

Forgive me if I'm slightly confused by his dramatic volte-face. After all, this is the same minister who recently came down like a ton of bricks on gardai over the leaking of letters by Green minister Trevor Sargent.

Remember Sargent directly interfered with a prosecution by writing to a garda. After his idsgraceful behaviour was made public in this newspaper, he had no choice but to resign.



DERMO

what was tetchy Dermo's Mr response? He initiated a full-blown Garda inquiry, resulting in the questioning of Herald journalists and arrest of a garda.

This travesty followed the case of Robert McNulty. McNulty, a remarkable detective sergeant.

McNulty ended up in court for simply telling the truth about how senior gardai cocked up a double murder inquiry and ended up charging the wrong person.

The hounding of a good cop like Det Sgt McNulty is the perfect example of how whistleblowers are victimised in this country.

Going further back, we all remember the case of Larry Goodman and the Beef Tribunal. Susan O'Keeffe, the journalist who broke the scandal, was threatened with jail when she refused to reveal her source.

In each of these cases, the policy of the Government was to shoot the messenger.

One of the most powerful and independent officials of the State, DPP James Hamilton, has now added his voice to the growing calls for urgent legislation to protect those who expose corruption, scandal and wrongdoing.

He is on record as saying that "people are afraid to expose wrongdoing in case they are victimised at work".

This Government has flip-flopped on this issue for the past 11 years, never taking decisive action in case it might offend powerful vested interests.

If we had a proper whistleblower's charter enshrined in law, we might have been able to avoid the worst of the scandals, gross mismanagement and the corruption in our banking system that has brought the country to the verge of economic ruin.

We urgently need cast-iron laws to protect the courageous people who risk their careers to expose wrongdoing.

That's why there's not a snowball's chance in hell that tetchy Dermot Ahern will allow one.



MOTHER

Dermo doesn't like the press or, I speculate, whistleblowers.

Goddammit, he wants to protect politicians' privacy and doesn't even want us to slag off the church (remember his blasphemy law).

It was only after this newsppaper revealed that he was about to throw a paralysed Brazilian girl's mother out of the country that he changed his mind on that.

Too many innocent and well-meaning people have suffered in the past because there were no laws and no enthusiasm for protecting them.

It's now almost 11 years since proposals were introduced for a whistleblower's charter that should have brought us into line with almost every other European country.

I'm not holding my breath that this crowd will bring one in.

The great escape as TDs dig out of the Dail

WHEN I saw plans to build a tunnel under Leinster House I had to check my calendar to be sure that it wasn't April 1.

It might seem like a bad joke, but the truth is that our cosseted TDs and ministers are to benefit from a €1m tunnel connecting Leinster House to Agriculture House up the street.

The two buildings are a mere 100 yards apart, yet the taxpayer must nonetheless fork out exorbitant fees to connect the two buildings.

Is there any end to their folly? Of course, as with any proposal that benefits all sides, the tunnel idea has also been broadly backed by Labour and Fine Gael.

When it comes to feathering their nests, our devoted and hardworking TDs are in total agreement. No divisions here. Seriously, have our politicians lost the plot?

How could they display such crass insensitivity by this splurging out €1m on this non-essential building at a time like this? This is unnecessary with much of the country in dire straits, hundreds of thousands of people in negative equity and almost half a million unemployed.



sultan

It's not long since Health Minister Mary Harney postponed the roll-out of the cervical cancer vaccine because of budget restraints. Yet no one in Leinster House bats an eyelid at spending €1m on a tunnel when they could easily walk up Kildare Street.

Is it any wonder Leinster House was once known as Charlie's Taj Mahal? In his time as Taoiseach, Charlie Haughey spent millions on a refurbishment of the building, with plush carpets, marble and fancy furniture. He was like a sultan, approving outrageous expenditure.

Several years on, nothing has changed. It seems the powers that be inside the gates have lost all touch with the people. Ordinary taxpayers reading this outlandish proposal will be even more outraged.

Then again, considering recent events outside the Greek parliament, maybe there's method in the madness of our politicians. When the next riot erupts from beleaguered and frustrated citizens, terrified TDs and senators will be able to take refuge in their tunnel.

Listen,Twink and Linda, you're too old to be acting like children

It's quite an unedifying spectacle really, a fight between two matrons who will in a few short years be in receipt of the free travel pass.

Yes, panto dame Twink, left, and Eurovision winner Linda Martin have had a bitter falling-out.

And while both sides are mercifully keeping quiet about the row in public, it seems that the two women crossed swords and haven't spoken since, communicating only when they join one another on stage.

In the midst of it all, the effervescent Twink has had to withdraw from the production due to illness, but we're still hearing whispers about their spat.

Frankly, I think it's laughable. To see two stage veterans refusing to talk to one another is quite pitiful.

Linda and Twink, you're both long enough in the game to know better. You're two respected icons and much- loved performers, and people look up to you. But this sorry episode is disheartening. I urge you both to start acting your age and put it all behind you before you surrender all dignity.

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