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Pressure mounts on Government to introduce single whistleblower law

Dublin, 19 July 2010 - Transparency International Ireland welcomes Standards in Public Office Commission annual report

Anti-corruption group Transparency International Ireland (TI Ireland) has repeated its call on the Government to introduce a single law protecting whistleblowers in both the public and private sector. The call was made after the State ethics watchdog the Standards in Public Office Commission (SiPOC) published its annual report for 2009 today.

SiPOC claimed today that the Government’s current approach to whistleblower protection is deeply flawed and that “the piecemeal approach to introducing protection for whistleblowers may have created confusion”. The State agency has also questioned “whether there is a real commitment” to encouraging people to come forward in reporting wrongdoing.

 “After everything we have witnessed in our banks and public sector over the past two years, it is hard to understand why the Government still refuses protection to whistleblowers across the private and public sectors”, said TI Ireland Chief Executive, John Devitt. “We would have stood a better chance of dealing with the problems in our banks sooner had people been encouraged to come forward. The cost of silence to Irish society is incalculable”. he added.

A TI Ireland report on whistleblower protection in Ireland was published earlier this year. The study found that while safeguards had been included in individual pieces of legislation, people across the public and private sectors can still face legal and disciplinary action for honestly reporting concerns to their employers or the authorities. There is no legal safeguard for employees in the banking sector, while the only state agency that provides blanket guarantees to whistleblowers is FÁS.

The Director for Public Prosecutions has also reported difficulties in getting people to come forward in reporting white collar crimes because of the absence of whistleblower protection. The Governor of the Central Bank, the Director of Corporate Enforcement and the Ombudsman have also publicly recommended the introduction of such a measure. The authorities in  Britain and Northern Ireland have offered blanket protection to employees there under a single whistleblower law since 1998.

TI Ireland has also backed SiPOC’s recommendation for the disclosure of liabilities including significant loans to politicians. The proposal comes after revelations earlier this year that senior politicians received loans on favourable conditions from financial institutions.

Notes for editors

TI Ireland will launch a free helpline and advice service for whistleblowers, witnesses and victims of corruption later this year. The service is supported by the European Commission.

TI Ireland’s report on whistleblower protection in Ireland ‘An Alternative to Silence’ is available at here

The Standards in Public Office Commission is the State agency responsible for the supervision of the Ethics and Electoral Acts. The legislation limits the amount of gifts and donations that politicians and office holders can receive in any year and the amount candidates and political parties can spend in elections. It also requires politicians and political parties to publish financial interests and donations received in any year.