Dublin, 21 May 2020
Former Garda Sergeant Maurice McCabe is calling on the public to support Transparency International (TI) Ireland’s appeal to provide free legal advice for whistleblowers looking to report wrongdoing during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The GoFundMe appeal is seeking to raise €50,000 over three months so that TI Ireland’s partner charity, the Transparency Legal Advice Centre (TLAC) can provide additional free legal advice valued at some €150,000 to Irish whistleblowers.
Sergeant McCabe, who has been appointed Patron of TI Ireland, received free advice and support from the organisation from 2012 to 2015 as he exposed systemic abuse of the Garda traffic database.
McCabe said, ‘The support that TI Ireland provided was absolutely essential in helping me get through my ordeal. TI Ireland helped me make informed decisions about how to report my concerns, and they helped me understand what to expect and how to safely blow the whistle on what I had seen’.
He continued, ‘I’m lucky that I got through my experience but there are many whistleblowers who will struggle without support. Many need legal advice as soon as possible – especially before they report - but often can’t afford it. That’s why I’m asking the public to support Transparency International (TI) Ireland’s appeal to provide free legal advice to whistleblowers', said McCabe.
After successfully lobbying for Ireland’s whistleblowing legislation, the Protected Disclosures Act 2014, TI Ireland launched TLAC in 2016 as an independent law centre to provide free legal advice to people making disclosures of wrongdoing. The law centre is the only source of specialist free legal advice for whistleblowers in Ireland and is led by a Managing Solicitor, and supported by a team of solicitors.
John Devitt, Chief Executive of TI Ireland said, ‘Since the COVID-19 pandemic, we have noticed a spike in calls from people raising workplace concerns and our team is now under enormous pressure to meet the demand from new clients. We can also no longer rely on volunteers to help operate our helpline because of social distancing measures’.
‘Our clients are exposing concerns ranging from fraud to serious risks to children and vulnerable adults to unsafe working environments. Many of those who contact us have also suffered because they have exposed wrongdoing – with the largest number of clients reporting whistleblowing reprisal coming from our health and community services.
‘We want to ensure that we can continue to provide access to free legal advice to every worker that needs it, irrespective of what they can afford, so that they can feel safer in reporting concerns about wrongdoing before it is too late’, he added.
TI Ireland’s goal is to raise €50,000 over the next three months so that there is no delay in giving advice to people who need it – especially those reporting urgent and grave risks to public health and safety. All funding raised in this appeal will be used exclusively to meet the costs of TLAC during 2020. Any contribution will be invested in supporting people like Sergeant McCabe and working to see that no one has to go through the same ordeal.
TI Ireland has also launched a new secure reporting channel for people to contact the Speak Up Helpline. The new reporting channel was developed with support from the Hermes Center for Transparency and Digital Human Rights and the Digital Whistleblowing Fund. Powered by Tor Project technology and GlobaLeaks software, the system is designed to protect the identity of whistleblowers while enabling secure communication online.
‘We want people to know that support is available if they need to speak up about wrongdoing, ethical misconduct or risks to public health or safety during the COVID-19 pandemic’, said Devitt.
‘Whistleblowing is one of the most effective ways of exposing corruption, human rights abuses and other wrongdoing. Despite this, many people are reluctant to speak up due to fear of retaliation. By providing an additional secure reporting channel, we hope to encourage more individuals to raise concerns safely’, he added.
For guidance on blowing the whistle or dealing with an ethical dilemma at work, contact the Speak Up Helpline on 1800 844 866, Monday to Friday, 10am - 6pm. You can also contact the Helpline securely online through www.speakup.ie or by using the Signal app to send us an encrypted message at 087 3859996 (www.signal.org). Only Signal-encrypted messages will be responded to.
To donate to TI Ireland’s fundraising appeal, visit https://www.gofundme.com/f/support-for-irish-whistleblowers or https://www.transparency.ie/donate.
Notes for Editors
- TLAC spends an average of 30 hours working with each client and it is estimated that TLAC has provided some €900,000 worth of free legal advice to its clients since it began operating in 2016. It has cost in region of €300,000 to operate the centre since it was founded.
- TI Ireland published guidance for workers reporting concerns during the COVID-19 pandemic which is available at https://transparency.ie/helpline/COVID_19_advice_for_workers
- TI Ireland’s guidance for employers is available at https://transparency.ie/integrity-work/COVID_19_advice_for_employers
- The Speak Up Helpline was launched by TI Ireland in 2011 to provide support to witnesses, whistleblowers and victims of corruption and other wrongdoing. Since then, it has provided information, and referral services to over 1,450 people.
- TI Ireland also runs the Integrity at Work (IAW) programme, which is a not-for-profit initiative for organisations in the public, private and non-profit sectors. Through training, best practice exchange, online resources and specialist advice and guidance, IAW promotes supportive environments for anyone reporting concerns of wrongdoing or unethical conduct.
- The Speak Up Helpline and TLAC are part-funded by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, Department of Justice of Equality, and Department of Education and Skills. Additional funding is now required to meet increased demand for TLAC and Helpline services. Full details of income and expenditure are published in independently audited accounts available at https://www.transparency.ie/about-us/governance and https://www.transparency.ie/helpline/TLAC/governance