“I thank the Minister for coming to the House to outline the issues addressed in the Charleton report. I will not go into the detail but one point seems to have been lost in this discussion of what happened to Sergeant McCabe, his family and the other whistleblowers. The Minister echoed the words of Othello when he described Sergeant McCabe as having done the State some service. To quote another famous speech, if a man stands for a righteous cause, he is stronger than all of the hosts of error. Sergeant McCabe has stood against all of those “hosts of error”. What we have forgotten, however, is what he was doing when he was whistleblowing. He was taking on a system that was rigging the penalty points system and he was highlighting that assaults were not being properly investigated. As a consequence, people were driving on our roads who should not have been on the road because they were not given the penalty points they deserved. As the Department is well aware, last year more than 60 drivers involved in serious accidents, including some causing death, should not have been on the road.
Let us step back from what happened to Sergeant McCabe and ask what happened to gardaí who fraudulently manipulated the penalty points system, with the result that people died on our roads. What happened to those whose crimes were not properly investigated and who subsequently committed further assaults? Why did the Garda Síochána allow that to happen? What happened to the gardaí who did not investigate those crimes properly and did not ensure our roads were safe because they failed to issue penalty points? We know what befell Sergeant McCabe. In a letter Sergeant McCabe provided to be read out in the Dáil, he stated they had destroyed him, his career and his family.
The Charleton report referred to the astounding inefficiency and inertia of Tusla and stated that the allegations against Sergeant McCabe took on a life of their own. It found that Sergeant McCabe was a good citizen and a good officer.
The question that arises is related to consequences. We know what happened at a high level to the Garda Commissioners and Ministers for Justice and Equality who resigned as a result of the handling of this case. However, at a fundamental level, there have been no consequences for people who engage in the types of activities Sergeant McCabe highlighted and for which he was isolated within An Garda Síochána.
I welcome the initiatives the Minister is taking on reform. However, as a result of the blood transfusion scandal, the Law Reform Commission proposed 13 years ago that a corporate manslaughter Bill be introduced. Deputy O’Callaghan and I, as well as other Members, introduced corporate manslaughter legislation that reflects exactly the proposals made by the Law Reform Commission. It would mean that an official in the Department of Health or a person working for a blood transfusion service who knowingly allowed contaminated blood products to be issued to women, resulting in death, would go to jail. We would all consider this proposal appropriate, yet the Bill has not been passed. Hundreds of women died needlessly, not through human error but because somebody, whose job was to ensure blood products were safe, sent out blood products in the knowledge that they were not safe. Did this person go to jail? No, he did not. Did he die? No, he did not. Did the people he affected die? They most certainly did. Where is the law to stop that happening again? It is sitting in the Department, which does not want section 3 of the Bill enacted. This section provides that people would be held to account if somebody dies. The Minister is far more qualified than I am in the law. If a garda chose not to allow penalty points to appear on a person’s driving record, with the result that the person retained his or her driving licence instead of having it removed, and subsequently that person was responsible for killing someone on the road, should that garda be jailed for corporate manslaughter on the basis that he or she did not do his or her job? The Bill sets a high threshold in that regard, so I am not sure the garda would go to jail.
The reason we are discussing scandals is that there are no consequences for those who do not do their jobs. Sergeant McCabe was trying to do his job as he saw it, and he was correct in what he was doing. However, the system tried to prevent him from doing his job. The people who should have gone to jail and lost their jobs are still members of the Garda Síochána. They are the people who isolated him in his Garda division and felt it was okay to allow penalty points to disappear from the system. They did not investigate serious assaults. The reason people died is that the people who should have investigated certain assaults did not do their job.
We repeatedly hear about systems failure. We expect people to do their job and they should be held accountable when they do not do their jobs. We have not learned the lesson from such a serious and callous episode as that which occurred in the Irish Blood Transfusion Service, as a result of which the Law Reform Commission proposed the introduction of corporate manslaughter legislation. In the Minister’s constituency people knew the maternity services in the Midlands Regional Hospital Portlaoise were not working and chose not to highlight this or intervene. Instead, they allowed the problem to continue, which should have had consequences. Tragedies happen and we understand that. The problem with our system is accountability. When somebody does something wrong, a person can resign and walk away with a pension, if in some disgrace. This will keep happening because there are no consequences for those who do not do their jobs as they should.”