Brendan Ogle: ‘The Final Verdict’ edition of Michael Clifford’s book A Force for Justice – the Maurice McCabe Story is jaw-dropping. Throughout its 370 pages, Clifford paints a picture of the dreadful Ireland we all fear exists, but had hoped doesn’t.
If you think you know the full details of the sustained abuse of Maurice McCabe from news clips and headlines, you don’t. The complete dysfunction of the police force in Cavan/Monaghan and beyond is described in great detail in the book.
Drunk Gardai turning up at suicide scenes, sexual assaults by bullies on a bus going un-investigated, the savage beating of a female taxi driver by a beast who was allowed to go on to commit murder, patrons of a night club being run over in a car park, oh yes, and piss put in a vinegar bottle in a fish and chip shop.
All of these extreme acts of criminality were mismanaged by Gardai, and Maurice McCabe was having none of it. And when he spoke out to highlight it, as he was duty bound to do? Garda management were having none of him.
But worse than that. Much worse. For twelve full years McCabe became an enemy within a force behaving like a private club where internal critique was to be shut down. The whistleblower himself, and his wife and family, were brutalised by colleagues, supervisors, senior management up to Commissioner level, and political overseers up to ministerial level.
The media played its part too. Before McCabe’s sheer stubbornness finally prevailed in 2018, there were disgusting examples of a number of media personnel and outlets engaging in the vilification of McCabe. Familiar tricks of spin, selective leaks, whispering campaigns and other tactics were used strategically at key times and in pernicious ways, as the state insiders in the media came to the aid of that broken state in targeting a thoroughly decent man. Shame on them.
But it’s not all bad. Heroes emerge. And heroines. Firstly, McCabe’s wife Lorraine is a true hero and it seems that without her Maurice would have gone under. And what sort of Ireland would we be left with then?
John Wilson was one of the colleagues helping Maurice, and himself coming under attack for doing so. And then we have Clare Daly, Joan Collins, Mick Wallace and John McGuinness. These politicians and their actions give the lie to those who believe that we have no good and honourable politicians in Ireland. We have.
Michael Clifford, the author, has himself played a superb role in the entire process. Thanks to journalists like him all might not yet be lost for hopes of more honour and principle – as well as skill and investigative rigour – among our journalists and the outlets for which they write and work. Clifford’s book is superb and his actions inspiring. And beyond the RTE Newsroom Katie Hannon, with her rigorous investigation of these issues, is another one who stands out from the rest.
And lastly there is Maurice McCabe himself. In Ireland 2018 we saw a Presidential Election while McCabe awaited the outcome and deserved vindication of the Disclosures Tribunal. Some of the candidates in that election were less than inspiring, and the less said about some of the would-be candidates the better.
Maurice McCabe has everything a country like this should want in a future President. A model citizen, a man of honour, principle, decency and determination. He is one of the most inspiring people in our state and those qualities are added to by his humility and downright ‘ordinariness’.
But the combination is truly extraordinary. Maybe someday Maurice McCabe will think about such a role for himself. If that ever happens I’d knock doors for him until my shoe leather was worn out.