Whistleblower Julie graces European Parliament again!


From this week's Galway City Tribune

From this week's Galway City Tribune

Whistleblower Julie graces European Parliament again! Whistleblower Julie graces European Parliament again!

Bradley Bytes – a sort of political column with Dara Bradley

A few people in the corridors of power at City Hall, past and present, mustn’t have slept easy last Sunday night.

Ditto some powerful players in the houses of the Oireachtas, some elected, others faceless bureaucrats.

It was the eve of Galway whistleblower, Julie Grace’s reappearance at the Petitions Committee (PETI) of the European Parliament.

Those with a conscience in positions of authority would surely have been restless at the thought of Julie, a former Galway City Council worker, being let loose in Brussels – again.

They probably thought she’d have gone away by now. Ground down by the system that Irish whistleblowers must struggle against. But not Julie. She’s made of stern stuff.

She had her day in the sun at PETI in April 2021. And she came back for more last week.

Six and a half years ago Julie Grace made a protected disclosure, under the 2014 Protected Disclosure Act. And still no closure.

As Luke Ming Flanagan, an Irish MEP for Midlands North-West, said at the 2021 Committee hearing, she was told it would be dealt with “expeditiously . . . she has been strung along ever since”.

In June 2016, the protected disclosure was submitted in person to Simon Coveney, then Minister for Local Government.

It related to revelations in her book, ‘Abuse of Power – Because Councils Can’, published in 2014, which recounted her struggle with Galway City Council, where she worked as a tenant liaison officer.

It also documented the treatment of Bríd Cummins, a Council tenant who fought eviction but subsequently took her own life – she was found dead in her flat when officials turned up looking to take back the keys to her home.

In December of 2016, Ms Grace was told by Minister Coveney that the Department did not have procedures in place to administer the protected disclosure.

Five years later, she told PETI she had lost 13 years of salary and pension from the local authority for blowing the whistle

Ming argued the treatment of Julie seriously breached fundamental principles of the European Union, “especially respect for human dignity in the whistleblower arrangements in Ireland”.

Both were back in Brussels last week, seeking European back-up and ammunition to battle on against Dublin intransigence on her case.

They got it, in fairness. After a stellar performance.

Julie petitioned the committee on the administration of Protected Disclosures in Ireland. Or, as she put it, the mal-administration of Protected Disclosures in Ireland.

Ireland, she said, had failed to fully implement the EU directive on whistleblowers; the Government had turned away from offering full protection to whistleblowers of integrity.

Julie highlighted the Irish prison officer who blew the whistle on theft by his colleagues. The perpetrators had since enjoyed promotion; his life was “destroyed” and he still faced retaliation, she said.

Mistreatment of whistleblowers, she said, was “nothing short of white-collar thuggery”, supported by the State.

The State protected perpetrators of “gross malfeasance”, while acts of retaliation, victimisation and penalisation against whistleblowers go unsanctioned.

Spanish Socialist MEP Garcia Del Blanco said the Irish Government was not taking the matter seriously.

Ming said Irish civil servants were “annoyed” at being asked questions by PETI, which had been so supportive of whistleblowers.

The Commission confirmed at PETI that it was investigating whether Ireland was fulfilling its requirements to whistleblowers under EU law.

PETI unanimously agreed Julie’s petition would be kept opened – a positive result for the whistleblower. Now it’s back in Ireland’s court.
This is a shortened preview version of this column. For more Bradley Bytes, see the July 28 edition of the Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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