Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Wednesday, 22 September 2021

Joint Oireachtas Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform, and Taoiseach

General Scheme of the Protected Disclosures (Amendment) Bill 2021: Discussion

Photo of John McGuinnessJohn McGuinness (Carlow-Kilkenny, Fianna Fail) | Oireachtas source

Okay. I will address one of the general comments that was made about Maurice McCabe being a case that was successful. I do not believe any case has been successful. They have left a huge scar on the lives of the individuals concerned as well as those of their families and extended families. Quite frankly, I do not believe that any compensation or apology is enough for some of the people who have been treated this way by the State. Unfortunately, we are dealing with a preference for the status quorather than a desire to do things right by those who come forward and tell the truth. There is a certain corruption within the State that has caused this to happen. If that old culture is not rooted out of the State and replaced by an open culture of transparency and accountability, then we will continue to have this ongoing issue.

I would also draw attention to the fact that there are numerous other unnamed whistleblowers, who are currently having their lives destroyed by a State that believes it can kick individuals around using, as Mr. McGree said, taxpayers' money to do so. Where decisions have been made and results have been arrived at, again, with regard to Ms Grace's case, it is appalling that the Department has dragged out this case for so long. It is unacceptable that in replies to parliamentary questions, various Ministers have simply paid lip service and made no decision. There has been no political leadership in Ms Grace's case, demanding an answer, an outcome and an end to that inquiry.

If the officials or the Minister are listening now, I suggest the time has come to draw a conclusion to Ms McGree's case. Ensure that those who need to be sanctioned are sanctioned and acknowledge those who need to be in terms of their own complaint. Now is the time to do it. I will be raising that issue again on the floor of the Dáil. I encourage as many members of the committee as possible, and anyone else who is interested in this, to do likewise.

With regard to Mr. McGree and the Department responsible, his case has been acknowledged within a court, which has upheld the decision and outcomes and yet he has not had any compensation in terms of what was discussed at the time. It is easy to say it is unacceptable but the State, where it is found wrong, has an obligation to its citizens to honour the outcome of a process. That has not happened in Mr. McGree's case. To think that the same issues are ongoing, that nothing is being done and that he is being penalised makes a person have very little regard for the State. That is how I feel about the three cases before us today. I would like to see the State acknowledge its wrongdoing, deal with each of the individuals effectively and efficiently, set a timeframe and for there to be independence, and not just independence in name but an office that will clearly stand over its integrity and credibility, and deal with the cases as they emerge.

I cannot speak for all of the members but I am sure they want to do the right thing about whistleblowers and want to see this legislation being robust and so on. I want to see the cases - the protected disclosures that have been lodged and put in a process - dealt with and sorted. I do not want to see all of them having to wait until after the legislation has passed. It is a dark stain on the State that it would allow this to happen and I am going to pursue it in that way.

I would reach out to the whistleblowers, one of whom is based in Cork Institute of Technology, CIT, which has now merged as a technological university, and say that in that case, similar to those of the witnesses present, it is time to draw a line and acknowledge the wrongdoing. It is time to compensate and support the families concerned and move on. I will pursue it in that vein. I have no doubt the members of the committee will revisit this to ensure we get the appropriate legislation that will provide independence and make people accountable.

Each of the witnesses has made a great contribution to this debate on which we can reflect. I thank them again for coming along today and wish them and their families well. I give a commitment that this will not be another committee report left on a shelf and that we will be able to take some action as a result of it.

We will suspend the meeting until 3 p.m. when we will meet in private session.


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