Speaking in the Seanad this week, Fine Gael’s Dr. Liam Twomey said that comprehensive whistleblowing legislation is needed in this country for all sectors. Dr. Twomey said that Transparency International Ireland (TI Ireland) has found in its report that there are currently so many loopholes in Irish law that most people in business or the public service are effectively stopped from reporting wrongdoing or raising concerns in the public interest.
“While I recognise that there are legal issues in putting whistleblowing legislation together, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) has stated that he believes that there is a need for whistleblowing legislation. The DPP understands that these obstacles can be overcome, unlike the government. The UK's Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 applies to the private and public sectors equally (except for information covered by the Official Secrets Act) and has operated successfully for more than ten years. Perhaps we should examine the UK legislation in this regard. UK legislation can often be relatively easily transferred into the Irish context because our legal systems are so similar.”
Dr. Twomey added, “I believe that there are a number of ways in which legislation could be made to work. For example, a potential whistleblower could contact a regulatory body which could then make inquires. All of these inquiries could be made away from the glare of public discussion in the media. If the information turns out to be true, it can be made public in whatever forum is deemed necessary such as the courts or the Oireachtas. If the information was given in bad faith for some reason - the person concerned might have been trying to manipulate the facts for personal gain, for example - it could be quietly disregarded.”
“The public want accountability and transparency from the top down in all sectors: public, private and banking and we as politicians need to lead the way in this regard. People want to be able to report wrongdoing and to feel safe in doing so, without fear of reprisals from colleagues. They want to see people being brought to account in this country as people with money and power have been seen to and are continuing to get away with it for too long. We need the government to give us the Attorney General’s opinion on why the whistleblowing obstacles are genuine and, ultimately, to produce legislation on this issue.”
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