Sinn Féin spokesperson on Public Expenditure Mairéad Farrell TD, and Sinn Féin TD for Cork East Pat Buckley, are to bring forward a Bill which would significantly reform and improve Ireland’s whistleblowing regime.
This Bill will address some of the deficiencies in the current Protected Disclosures Act, provide additional supports for whistle-blowers, and provide greater accountability for identified wrongdoing in the wider public service. The bill is currently being finalised for introduction.
Teachta Farrell said:
“This bill was developed in consultation with domestic and international legal practitioners, academics and former whistle-blowers.
“If enacted it would set a new gold standard in terms of national whistle-blowing legislation.
“It includes provisions which would give greater protections like free legal aid and psychological counselling services, remove caps on awards, and broaden the definition of ‘penalisation’.
“It would also improve accountability by further empowering the Minister to act on a protected disclosure, when one is made in relation to their department or a body under the aegis of their department.
“This bill would also transpose the mandatory elements of the EU’s Whistle-blowing directive, which must be done by the 15th of December.
“Minister McGrath will be bringing forward his own bill, and having seen the outline of the bill, I’m very concerned that rather than addressing the existing weaknesses in the regime, he will be weakening it further.
“Whistle-blowers are vital to any democracy worth its salt, but we know how they have often been treated in the past. They pay a very high personal cost for acting in the public interest.
Teachta Buckley said:
“This legislation has been crying out for reform for many years, and I have struggled to get justice for many whistle-blowers in the past.
“The procedure to get certainty on how a protected disclosure is handled in the past has been very weak.
“There has been no clarity to ascertain if the whistleblowers had been protected and if the reported issues had actually been addressed.
“This Bill adds strength and protection for whistleblowers, but will also add a very strong onus on those who will be responsible for addressing these very issues that will come forward in the future.
“We need to be transparent, but we need to give confidence to those people that wish to make a protected disclosure that they will be protected when acting in the national interest.”