of the differences between policing scandals in
the North and in the South is that policing in the
North has always been intimately bound up with a
corrupt political system.
Thus, it required deep-seated political change,
and not just reform of policing, to deal with the
problem up here.
In the South, on the other hand, its widely
been taken for granted that corruption in the gardai
didnt reflect any malaise in society generally.
So, curing the corruption wasnt contingent
on wider political change. Policing problems could
be contained in a way which wasnt possible
in the North.
Naturally, then, debate about how to respond to
the revelations at the Morris Tribunal has centred
on the contents of a new policing bill and on suggestions
of the need for an ombudsman. Theres been
no talk of any need for a new political dispensation.
But lets listen for a moment to Karen McGlinchey,
daughter of Bernard, senator and long-time Fianna
Fail kingpin in Donegal north east, as she recalls
home-life in Letterkenny in the halcyon years before
garda scandal engulfed the family.
The home had an open door for callers at all
times of the day or night. Deals were done, backs
were slapped and favours rendered. Someones
daughter may have needed an interview panel squared,
or a problematic planning application required the
intervention of the Senator. Nothing was impossible.
Not only was it possible to bend the law, new law
could even be enacted to meet the needs of the favoured
few. This was so routine that Bernard McGlinchey,
in an interview marking his retirement from public
life a few years back, told the Donegal Democrat
how hed secured a licence for his Golden Grill
night-spot in Letterkenny.
The law at the time stated that you had to
prove the population of the civil parish had increased
by thirty three and a third percent. While the population
of Letterkenny had doubled, the area stretched out
to Glenswilly and Churchhill, and as such my application
for the licence would not have been granted.
My solicitor said he had bad news for me---the
law was against me. Well, I said back to him, if
the law is against me, well have to change
the law. I was in the Senate at the time and Charlie
Haughey was Minister for Justice and finalising
the new Liquor Act. He inserted a sub-section which
changed the law in the urban area.
Karen McGlinchey recalls that her father used
to refer jokingly to the amendment, section 19 of
the Intoxicating Liquor Act, 1962, as the
The culture of the pint or the transfer
was dominant in Donegal, as elsewhere across the
26 counties. Most guards recognised that if
they wanted to climb the ladder of success within
the force, crossing swords with Bernard McGlinchey
was not going to augur well. Gardai moved in concentric
circles around him. Those on the outer edge were
desperate to become members of the inner sanctum.
At any opportunity which might present itself, the
ambitious guard was ready, poised and waiting to
The role of Karens sister, Adrienne, in the
Donegal events has still not been satisfactorily
explained----despite extensive evidence from her
and relating to her at the Morris hearings. Its
clear from Karens book, however---Charades,
published by Gill and Macmillan---that it was the
cross-over between business and politics, particularly
Fianna Fail politics, which generated the acrid
atmosphere in which gardai reckoned that only losers
regarded the law as sacrosanct, and that they could
go to any lengths to win favour for their political
masters---in the expectation of advancement for
themselves if they delivered.
The corruption which eroded all respect for law
and justice in the Donegal gardai had seeped in
from surrounding society. The role of the garda
siochana was (is) to defend a society in which the
interests of the rich took precedence over law,
justice and the will of the people. And the gardai
knew it. That---and not the personal ambition of
individual guards---was the source of the corruption.
The changes needed in the South are every bit as
profound those required in the North.