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Saturday, May 10, 2014

Barry Clifford: Good Cops that Versus The Bad Cops

It seems at last that Maurice McCabe is finally on the road to vindication and the term whistle blower will be restored to its more ethical meaning rather than that of being classed as a rat; when all you wanted to do is expose injustice and be against those who had sworn to uphold the law but chose it break it instead. I choose those words carefully about the road he is on, for though he may be on it he has yet to finish the journey.

On a positive note he represents everything that good character calls for and for anyone that hopes to enact change would aspire to be. I have talked to other members of the Gardai who are like Maurice: John Kelly comes to mind and Martin Ridge to name but a few. These are the good cops that versus the bad cops and are very much part of a minority within a majority. It would be wishful thinking to hope it would have been any other way, and yet it should be so and no real good reason not to be.

I have also met the other kind of cop up close and personal who lied to a judge and to me and by extension many more victims who were the satellites of a case taken against a lower clergy order called The Christian Brothers.  For the first time since, I now feel confident that I can at last move against these cops, now retired, to seek justice. Their ilk are the festering rotting apples that maggots rest easy within who leave behind an empty shell as they move along to nestle inside the next healthy fruit. But is anyone really surprised anymore?

Like any union or fraternity, the Gardai easily fall to the symptoms of what that means and more so when they all wear the same uniform. Put a suit on a passive chimpanzee among an otherwise naked group and you will be astounded at the change it will bring about in that close cousin of ours; the Gardai are easy prey to the same impulses. Yet, this week, accountability has for the first time shone the light directly on a police force as most people did not know it and may it never be the same again.

Corruption within a police force should be the business of a minority that are against the majority and not the other way around. In this way they will be more easily crushed yet we had seen the attempt by the Gardai as a dangerous force that tried to crush the good cops among them. The only thing now left to do is hope they will at last find their moral ground that was lost in the fog of  a dangerous tradition that was an open secret in plain sight. For those that are ‘connected’  be advised to obey the law a bit more in the future because the friends you might have in the police force may not be able to help you this time. For the rest of us, we will have to try to obey the law as usual or otherwise pay the penalty and that includes the Gardai.


By Barry Clifford

The price of justice


JUST as the Taoiseach was rising in the Dáil to announce the resignation of the minister for justice, the man at the heart of Alan Shatter’s troubles was at a completely different gathering. Sergeant Maurice McCabe was attending a meeting to deal with what he alleges is ongoing bullying he is suffering as a result of blowing the whistle on malpractice in the force.
Shatter’s resignation is in response to the contents of the report into a dossier of allegations made by McCabe, due to be published on Friday. The sergeant, who battled in the wilderness for five years to have his concerns addressed, has been vindicated. Along the way, he met hostility at every turn within the force. Not once did the minister move to protect somebody who was pointing out serious shortcomings in policing. If anything, Shatter aligned himself with Garda management who attempted to paint McCabe as a malcontent.
Yet, even at this remove, with McCabe’s allegations apparently vindicated, the sergeant is having to deal with ongoing bullying. That, probably more than anything, illustrates the roles of Shatter and the former Garda Commissioner, Martin Callinan, in failing to properly deal with unpalatable truths.
How could Shatter’s judgment have been so poor? How could one so talented act with such a paucity of intelligence? How could a reformer blow up his career by siding with the force determined to ensure that things remained as they were? The reality is Shatter backed the wrong horse. At every turn, he sided with the management. He could have turned to his cabinet minister Pat Rabbitte, who had met McCabe and subsequently spoke glowingly of his character. He could have asked Fine Gael party chairman Charlie Flanagan, who also spoke highly of McCabe. Both could have told him that this was a man to take seriously. Former Garda Ombudsman Conor Brady described McCabe as a “a fine man, a man of integrity”, and one whom Brady himself “would be influenced by what he had to say”.
Instead, Shatter took his lead from Garda management, and all his actions thereafter were driven by that decision.
His decision to align himself with management may be rooted in the relationship he had developed with Mr Callinan. In the conversation McCabe taped between himself and the confidential recipient, Oliver Connolly, the latter man referenced the “bond” between Shatter and Callinan.
Connolly traced it to the visits of US President Barack Obama and the Queen in the months after Shatter came to office. Both men would have been toast if there had been a major security issue.
In such a cauldron, men often find common cause, and a connection lingers long after the event.
There were other matters. The austerity cutbacks hit the gardaí hard. Morale among the members plummeted. Through it all, Callinan held the line. When 140 rural Garda stations were closed, Shatter repeatedly referenced the decision as coming from the commissioner. Callinan took the political heat for the minster.
When the annual conference of the Garda Representative Association were less than hospitable to Shatter, Callinan made his displeasure known.
Then, when this turbulent cop came along with his array of allegations, it was time for Shatter to do right by the commissioner. If Sergeant McCabe was regarded as a malcontent, acting in a “disgusting” manner by Garda management, then that was good enough for Shatter.
In January 2012, when McCabe complained about 12 cases, Shatter had notice of the complaint. He passed it onto the commissioner, who passed it back within weeks, claiming there was nothing to it.
When McCabe and John Wilson brought their concerns on penalty points malpractice to public representatives, Shatter was disdainful. Again, he stood with the Garda management which was dismissive of the allegations. When the heat came on to have the matter investigated, Shatter referred it back to the force for a comfy internal investigation.
On publication of that report in May 2013, Shatter publicly questioned the bona fides of the whistleblowers. He then went on RTÉ’s Prime Time and revealed personal data about Mick Wallace, who had championed the whistleblowers. The data referred to a cursory road traffic incident in which gardaí allowed Wallace off with a warning.
Subsequently, Shatter revealed that he had obtained the information from the commissioner, the pair of them thick as thieves, lashing out against the turbulent cops and their supporters.
That incident culminated last Tuesday with the Data Commissioner ruling that Shatter had broke the law.
The minister’s character then came into play. He has long shown signs of supreme self confidence, and a tendency to regard opponents with a withering condescension. He couldn’t help himself.
On October 1, 2013, he told the Dáil that the whistleblowers hadn’t co-operated with the internal Garda report. This was a slur on their characters, and in time would become an albatross around the minister’s hard neck.
McCabe refused to lie down. He brought his allegations to the Public Accounts Committee, effectively defying the minister. Shatter tried to head him off by referring the matter to GSOC, but it didn’t wash. Instead, McCabe’s anonymity was lost, and he was no longer somebody who could be portrayed as a malcontent, but a real officer, who had interacted with the likes of Rabbitte, Flanagan and Brady.
The transcript from the taped conversation was dragged into the public domain through Shatter’s old nemesis, Wallace. Time to get rid of the confidential recipient, Oliver Connolly, who was unceremoniously dumped.
Then, with the heat coming on, Callinan was next man overboard. It is now widely accepted that Callinan was shafted for political expediency, principally to save Shatter’s bacon.
In the end, the Taoiseach was forced to refer McCabe’s original allegations to an independent inquiry. For the first time since the sergeant raised the issues they were being examined by an outside body. The imminent publication of that report has been the final straw for the minister.
It didn’t have to be like this. Even after his initial decision to align himself with Callinan and management, Shatter could have pulled back. That was when his supreme confidence haunted him. Humility, or even self doubt, were alien concepts to this politician.
He could have been a very good minister for justice. In areas such as the law business, child protection matters, family law, sentencing, he was both a breath of fresh air and a font of progressive ideas. But policing is at the heart of the justice portfolio, and his judgment over the past two years was nothing short of brutal.
A minister for justice, Garda commissioner and the man who was the confidential recipient have now all resigned over the manner in which they dealt with a whistleblower. How could one man, so lowly in the hierarchy of power, be responsible for all that? Simply by being right, and exercising stubborn persistence in pursuit of vindication.

When he came out of the meeting on his allegations of bullying yesterday, McCabe was told the news about the minister. They were agog in the upper echelons of power, a career gone, a ministerial scalp, a great story. Down at ground level, the man who started it all is still dodging the bullets. The more some things change, the more others still require addressing.

By Michael Clifford

Photo Minute: After The Dawn








Photo Minute: At The Galway Pet Store Today
















By Barry

A Very Important Electoral Message From Edvard Hund


Many thanks for your support

Firstly my i commend you on you bravery in Supporting a Gurrier Terrier .... that took guts kid!

Apologies for the delaying in replying; the moon is in Uranus and I spent a good while barking at it these last few nights.

A brief history that explains my mission.

.......My sister gave birth in the street to five lovely pups this time last year. She got done for littering in public, which just wasn't fair, and probably got me started in politics - I just felt I had to do something about this. Stand on my own four feet for what is right! Granted, my sister is a thoroughbred bitch, but this wasn't on. Those little pups turned 7 last week; they'll be 10 in August, and they deserve better. Politics is a dog eat dog business and people say I'm barking mad to get involved, but I've been led around by people for too long- The dogs in the street will tell you that!

My manifesto includes the following:

- more transparent pricing policy on pet foods in supermarket multiples. Cat food consistently gets better shelf coverage and better pricing. This makes cat ownership more attractive and discriminates against dogs (and other consumers of dog food).

- an end to the portrayal of dogs as stupid, hungry layabouts on TV and elsewhere. Scooby-doo is a disgrace; he sold out the good name of the noble Great Dane for some snacks and a bit of fame. If elected, I will seek to redress this perception of dogs through better, more balanced cartoons.

- better screening of those seeking to study veterinary medicine. Any applicant with fingers larger than a standard Denny sausage will be barred from training or practising as a vet. As a transitional measure, existing practising vets with large fingers will be confined to examining the front end of all small animals (except cats).

- an end to the "pooper-scoope"r policy. Dogs have a right to poop where they wish without fear of reprisal. I am supported in this by numerous 'shoe-cleaner' product manufacturers who have seen their business decline in recent years due to a lack of good quality, well camouflaged dog shit in the streets.

- likewise, with regard to "arse-sniffing"; it's part of our culture and an entitlement. I would like to extend the sniffing policy to cover the sniffing of arses of all species.

- justice for my cousin Spotty Hund who was kicked in the arse at the back of a pub by a drunk who though he was a one-eyed monster walking backwards. Spotty developed complications as a result, including a half a haemorrhoid - which isn't a whole pile - and now he looks like a bulldog when he tries to move his bowel.

- registration of the "Gurrier Terrier" (TM) as a recognised pedigree breed with the Irish Kennel Club (Gadharchumann na hEireann).

Must dash, as we are going out looking for the man who shot my Paw


Regards

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Barry Clifford: Doggone Election Posters

Every day they are unavoidable; doggone election posters: In your face, in procession, peering down from atop lampposts and any other perch that they can get away with. It is their faces that I am fascinated with more as they surely cannot speak, can do no harm yet; the posters I mean. But what are they trying to tell me? They say a face can tell a lot yet the naysayers tell us ‘never judge a book by it’s cover.’ But we do judge, at least some of us to a certain degree.

What do we have? One poster has a pretty woman on it and a runner up that does not look too bad either on a lamppost a little further down the line. Some faces look like they are past their sell by date and a few come with cheesy smiles along with the dodgy teeth in mature decay. Others, always the males of course, look positively lecherous, while a few more look like they have been caught with their hands in the cookie jar when their mug-shot was taken and it probably was, and now, God help us, it is now stuck on a tree.

There is also the ones that seems like they are looking for a spot on American Idol while still more have lost all pretence of their real ambitions: that they really need to go to the bathroom. I was spoilt for choice for sure. Their faces left no room for re-threaded and tired old political slogan, even in the small print on their posters. It was all face that was going to do it or not, and that was going to be a serious stretch for some and a walk in the park for others. So, I tried to see beyond it all, looking for more clues to the content of their real character on their posters, until one day I found what I was looking for, and who, in my rights as a free citizen and registered voter, I am going to vote for.

He was staring out at me near Newcastle in Galway as I pulled up to the traffic lights from an old leafy Oakwood. I almost missed him but red was on our side. Smart and trendy looking in his shirt and tie, he seemed to be just looking at, well, me. For the first time I felt important, was somebody, and there was definitely an energy coming from that worldly wise face passed on to where I sat.

He sported a moustache that suggested wisdom beyond his years tinged with strands of grey around his temple and chin that reminded me of that other great wise one: Socrates. There was just four words to the poster with his name that I will never forget: ‘Please Just Love Me’ and I did for it was that at first sight. He was running as an Independent candidate and looked it too with that thoughtful, no nonsense look.

His name is Edvard Hund, and just because he is originally from England one can’t hold that against him; but his pedigree is unassailable, and even though he is an underdog he has got my Number 1 vote.


By Barry Clifford   

Corruption has laid waste to the Russian economy


By Sergei Guriev

Once growth is gone, territorial expansion is an authoritarian regime’s tool of choice, says Sergei Guriev
Russia’s annexation of Crimea came as a great surprise. After all, Russia was long thought to be a “normal” developing country. True, it was governed by an undemocratic regime – but it was well on its way to bridging the gap with the west.
However, what happened in Crimea is anything but “normal”. The last country to annex a neighbour’s territory was Iraq, which took over Kuwait in 1990. Russia is certainly not Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. But it stands out in one respect – it is a high-income country that is also very corrupt. According to Worldwide Governance Indicators, Russia ranks among the top fifth of most corrupt countries – on a par with far poorer parts of the world.
        

For many years corruption was perceived to be a domestic problem that Russians should be left to sort out by themselves. Western leaders also accepted Russian corruption for a more selfish reason. When money embezzled by corrupt officials was spirited out of Russia and placed in Swiss bank accounts or used to buy penthouses in Chelsea, western governments drew reassurance from the fact that powerful people in Moscow had a strong interest in maintaining a peaceful relationship with the west. In a way, corruption was thought to make the Russian elite more accountable to the west.
That was a mistake – and a large one, for Russian corruption turned out to be the root cause of the crisis in Crimea. Graft has laid waste to the Russian economy. And once economic growth is gone, territorial expansion is an authoritarian regime’s tool of choice for bolstering its popularity and holding on to power.
In Russia, the social compact of the 2000s was based on economic growth of 7 per cent a year. Citizens were happy with a government that provided substantial material benefits, even if it curtailed democratic freedoms. This was supposed to last. When Vladimir Putin took up the presidency for the second time in 2012, he promised to increase government spending – pledges that were premised on projected growth of between 5 and 6 per cent a year.
But this social compact is no longer feasible. Last year growth slowed to 1.3 per cent. Independent forecasters expect the economy to shrink in the first two quarters of 2014, as does the World Bank.

“Russia’s corruption has spawned an aggressive foreign policy to which western leaders are now struggling to respond
Why has growth disappeared? Since all previous sources of growth – cheap labour, growing commodity prices, expansion of consumer credit – have already been exhausted, further growth would require incentives for investment. But that requires protection of property rights and enforcement of contracts – exactly what corruption in government and the judiciary undermines. Even before Crimea, investors were voting with their feet. Investment suffered. Russian stocks were trading at a 50 per cent discount to other emerging markets.
Having driven the economy into recession, the Russian elite has to find a new way to stay in power. For an authoritarian regime that is always a difficult task, requiring money, repression and propaganda.
Recession means Russia’s government can no longer use money to buy public acceptance. Repression and propaganda have to take up the slack. In these circumstances, nothing could be more helpful than a small and victorious military adventure. Tangible victories – no matter how small or how costly – boost the ruler’s popularity. It is not surprising that Mr Putin’s approval ratings now stand at 80 per cent.
Russia’s corruption can no longer be considered to have the salubrious effect of keeping the elite in check. On the contrary, it has spawned an aggressive foreign policy to which western leaders are now struggling to respond. Russian corruption has indeed become a threat to global security.
The country’s government has always been reluctant to investigate corruption on its own territory. Russian anti-corruption activists fight an uphill battle. Other governments can and should help to locate and freeze corrupt officials’ foreign assets. That will undermine support for Mr Putin within Russia’s ruling class – and support for the elite among the general public. Both will certainly contribute to the arrival of a new, democratic – and thus peaceful – Russia.


The writer, a former rector of the New Economic School in Moscow, is visiting professor at Sciences Po in Paris

Photo Minute: Fire and water on the volcanic island of Hawaii











Photo Minute: Oh, what a wonderful world......









Monday, May 5, 2014

Children Learn What They Live

If children live with criticism, they learn to condemn.

If children live with hostility, they learn to fight.

If children live with fear, they learn to be apprehensive.

If children live with pity, they learn to feel sorry for themselves.


If children live with ridicule, they learn to feel shy.

If children live with jealousy, they learn to feel envy.

If children live with shame, they learn to feel guilty.

If children live with encouragement, they learn confidence.


If children live with tolerance, they learn patience.

If children live with praise, they learn appreciation.

If children live with acceptance, they learn to love.

If children live with approval, they learn to like themselves.


If children live with recognition, they learn it is good to have a goal.

If children live with sharing, they learn generosity.

If children live with honesty, they learn truthfulness.

If children live with fairness, they learn justice.


If children live with kindness and consideration, they learn respect.

If children live with security, they learn to have faith in themselves and in those about them.

If children live with friendliness, they learn the world is a nice place in which to live.


By Dorothy Law Nolte

Video: Laugh a little with Niall Toibin - Dublin/ Cavan and Corkman