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Sunday, May 29, 2016

John Kelly: An incorruptible Force Of One

                                                                  The man: John Kelly
Where do you start when trying to measure police corruption in this country called Ireland? You could finish by looking a little harder at the former commissioner of that force, Martin Callinan, who appears to be in permanent denial on every public platform that there is anything wrong with the Gardai (Irish Police) and in permanent attack on anyone that wants to take a closer look. Many tribunals have tried, and in the main failed, at enacting change and the Gardai ombudsman have been rendered in most cases, toothless, by the general un-cooperation and unwillingness of the force to engage with them. This is not isolated but institutional.

Any Police force that all too often see themselves above the law rather than answerable to it is a frightening prospect indeed. The many tribunals have borne out this thinking: “ The relationship between some Gardai and priests and bishops was wholly inappropriate.”- Mahon Tribunal. 

“The tribunal has been staggered by the amount of indiscipline and insubordination it has found in the Garda force. There is a small, but disproportionately influential, core of mischief making members who will not obey orders, who will not follow procedures, who will not tell the truth and who have no respect for their officers.” - Morris Tribunal

There are many more instances of this institutional corruption, and if you dissent from within to expose the rottenness at the core, or are its victim, then you must possess the courage to enter a perfect storm to at least fight or be crushed. Even if you try to do the right thing at the most local and seemingly mundane level, you can find yourself even in a bigger vortex. This is what happened to Garda John Kelly.

It seems that 27 years on the force was not going to save him against being dismissed; not for bribery, or theft, nor embezzlement, but for just doing his job. He was expected to roll over but this man was a fighter in a fight that took him all the way to the Supreme Court that sprang from a minor incidence when he tried to get a pub to close long after even hardened drinkers were already in bed. Hell had no fury like the publican already convicted in court of the same offence not too long before, and John could not have imagined the firestorm that lay ahead for himself that could have been written literally in two different coloured pens, which was part of the ludicrous evidence used against him; a problem I have everyday if I could find a pen that even had ink in it.

Now that the battle is won by John Kelly and the smoke cleared, though the war not yet over, so far it has cost the taxpayers €450,000 in legal expenses alone thus far, and this good man has thankfully been completely exonerated and restored, after two and a half years, to his position as a Garda. Much else has also been exposed in this sorry saga of a force. It was never in my view just about John Kelly, this was about cronyism and the force of one mans courage against an unyielding tribal one. Drumshanbo in County Leitrim can rest easy again now that they know that there is truly an incorruptible force of one in their midst. Thank you John.

Barry Clifford
PS: John Kelly has since retired and his worse day in retirement has been better than his best day on the force.