There has been a deafening silence within mainstream media surrounding some of the shenanigans going on between the current editor in chief of Independent News and Media, Stephen Rae and a bent police force that remains a monolithic, powerful and highly unaccountable institution. On the face of evidence and comment presented in the public domain there seems to offer a pretty tasty story to be chased. Both The Irish Post and The Guardian report that Stephen Rae, had penalty points generated by driving offences removed by the police force itself. Rae, a former editor of The Garda Review, the in-house magazine of An Garda Siochana, oversaw the sacking of Gemma O Doherty. O Doherty was chasing up a story that the Garda commissioner himself Martin Callinan, had his own penalty points wiped off the system. There’s a wang of shit of this of epic proportions. Its seems as if the editor-in chief of the state largest media corporation, who has previously worked for An Garda Siochana and seems to have had penalty points removed by them, sacked an investigative journalist who was investigating how the head of An Garda Siochana had his own penalty points removed. Whilst her sacking was officially described as part of “restructuring” within the paper, she was the only journalist forced out of here job. The sacking was framed to her in terms of “readjusting to digital the age”. Given the only actual coverage of this so far has been online sources such as Broadsheet.ie, this framing might yet come back to bite Rae and co in the ass.
But so far traditional indigenous media corporations have refused to explore this story. O Doherty’s sacking was raised in both the Dail and European Parliament, yet no Irish paper has covered this. Maybe this is editorial and cultural rather than professional journalists being malleable in the face of such plausible and dynamite transgressions by powerful actors in the state. There have been a good few not least Ken Fox and Gemma O Doherty herself who havent shied from investigation police corruption. And given the existential pressure on business models of traditional media institutions as well as individual employees, I have some sympathy with people not sticking there heads up too much in public solidarity. I have no way of knowing the tactic and private support O Doherty is getting from her peers. But such understandings should not blind us to the structural failings of out existing media landscape to hold power to account.
Equally I should say that I dont think every member of An Garda Siochana is corrupt. But when we consider 1 in 5 penalty points are wiped out, and we consider the continual resistance from the hierarchy of the police force to public demands it be open and accountable – even within limitations of the relatively toothless Garda Ombudsman which found the force is unwilling to embrace a culture change and still is being refused access to the police Pulse system; when we consider the treatment of whistle-blowers within the force; and we understand that we have paid out €420,000 a month in compensation arising from police abuses of power, it is naïve to assume that An Garda Siochana is culturally different than what had been described previously in the Mahon report:
“Because corruption affected every level of Irish political life, those with the power to stop it were frequently implicated in it.“
Others have expressed on opinion on why O Doherty was fired, and again these claims are based upon her work being far too inquisitive about the actions of the Irish criminal justice system. Her work led to the reopening of case of the murder of Fr Niall Molloy in 1985. The judge presiding then, Mr Justice Frank Roe was good buddies with Richard Flynn charged with Fr Molloys manslaughter. Roe directly the jury to acquit after three hours.
Its seems that present at the murder was a prominent Fianna Fail politician, a Kilkenny surgeon and several others who one assumes have colluded in a cover up for over two decades. Reading between the lines of O Doherty reporting of this its clear the local community have a good idea what went on, as one would assume do the Garda. The family of Fr Molloy make it clear that they see O Dohery’s sacking as not just about penalty points but about the nexus of power relationships focusing around Stephen Rae and his close relationship with a police force that still seeks to reject public scrutiny.
Whats clear from the Leveson enquiry in the UK is that corrupt police practices and “unethical” journalistic practices developed and coexisted in a mutually supportive ecosystem that shrouds institutional abuses of power. Whilst it would be simplistic to assume such findings apply directly in ireland, its equally silly to assume that such mutually supportive relationships dont occur. One way to get a bit of light on this would be if the main actors answered some straight questions
1 Did Stephen Rae get penalty point wiped of by his former employers
2 Did Martin Callinan, the top cop in the state, get penalty point wiped of by his own organisation
Im pretty sure Rae’s bessie mate (and high profile Indo “investigative” journalist) Paul Williams is working on it as we wait.
In the meantime here’s a great piece of research documenting aspects of corrupt police behavior since the states inception.