“When you eliminate the impossible, whatever is left, no matter how improbable, is the truth.”
(Sherlock Holmes’ advice to Dr. Watson)
As I listened to the headlines on the RTÉ ”News at One” (Monday, 13th Februaaray, 2017) and heard, yet again, a statement from the Garda Commissioner that she would not be standing aside, I was minded of the quotation above. There appears to have been an assumption in the public arena that Nóirín O’Sullivan “must have known” what was going on in the whistle-blower controversy. Add to that, the thinly veiled but apparent threat/promise from Jim O’Callaghan (F.F./T.D.) in an interview with Seán O’Rourke earlier in the day when he insinuated that RTÉ had questions to answer about a “recent radio interview with the Garda Commissioner”. I had listened to that interview and the very personal nature of her story made me wonder why that interview was taking place.
I should state at this point that I have a strong personal interest in this entire whistle-blower scenario. Back in 1979 I was a member of a consultancy and management training team assembled by NIHE Limerick (now University of Limerick) to run the first management training programme in the Garda Training Centre at Templemore, Co. Tipperary, for Garda Chief Superintendents. My role and expertise related to Leadership, Group Behaviour, and Organisation Culture. In particular, my approach is based upon experiential principles where participants learn from guided analysis and examination of their own work and life experience leading to highly personal and relevant learning. For example, instead of teaching participants about Motivation and Maslow’s Theory of the Hierarchy of Needs, I would ask them to reflect upon their work experience and identify a time when they were really happy about their work and felt confident in what they were doing. Similarly for a time when they were unhappy and uncomfortable in what they were doing. By grouping their answers into “Good” and “Bad”, it quickly becomes apparent that the “positive” factors are mainly concerned with internal factors such as feeling competent, liking the work, feeling happy whereas the “negative” factors deal predominantly with external factors, such as work environment, pressure from others, relationships with team members, superiors, and subordinates. This approach, as the saying goes, “reaches parts of the psyche that traditional teaching based upon the studies of others, of experts, cannot reach” because it comes from inside the learner and bypasses the Ego resistance to change thus leading to profound changes in behaviour.
In the setting of the Templemore Centre this approach gave me valuable insights into the culture and belief systems of the Garda Síochána at that time as a national institution. In brief it was a national institution which had internalised traditional standards of moral and ethical beliefs and related behaviour patterns that were increasingly thought to be not relevant and so were increasingly not widely accepted or practised in the Ireland of the time. This was summarised on one occasion during the course by a Detective Chief Superintendent who, in response to my question as what was the greatest change they had witnessed during their careers, said that “the greatest change was that (they) could no longer recognise a criminal by the ‘cut’ of him.”
I later made use of this and other related information I had gleaned to make a detailed contribution to the Garda Training Committee Report on Probationer Training (published by the Stationery Office) which was presented to the Garda Commissioner, Lawrence Wren, in December, 1985. This was the first of a series of Reports on Education and Training for the Garda Síochána. Further reports were planned for In-Service Promotion, Specialist, and Higher Management Training. I made specific recommendations as to how the culture of the organisation should be changed so that the Garda Síochána would be empowered and supported in dealing with a rapidly changing society. In particular, I was drawing attention to the undermining and then immanent failure and collapse of the traditional icons, symbols, and sources of authority in Irish society. From personal contacts, both formal and informal, in the course of the past fifteen years (since returning to Ireland in 2001 after a further twenty years of overseas work in developing countries and transitional economies) I believe that little has changed. It is against this background that I make the following comments.
If Commissioner O’Sullivan had known nothing as she has stated repeatedly about the alleged victimisation of Garda Sergeant McCabe and others, the obvious conclusion must be that she was digging a very big hole for herself if it were subsequently discovered that she was prevaricating or concealing information. Why would she do that? If she had genuinely been unaware of what was happening, how was that possible? If we allow for that possibility though, then however improbable it may seem, we must also allow for the possibility that she was deliberately not informed by one or more senior members of her management team about what was going on! Why would they do that? Did one or more of her team fear that a woman Commissioner would not sympathise or identify with a traditional male ethos? What else has yet to be disclosed? Does she even yet know who has been hiding information from her? Is that the reason why she is determined to remain in office until, like a good police officer, she flushes out the mole in the organisation? Is this yet another example of “The Case of the Dog that didn’t Bark in the Night?”