Whistleblower says sinn fin the only option
Garda whistleblower John Wilson, who last week formally indicated his intention to stand as a candidate in the next General Election, has said that if he were to join a political set-up, the only realistic option for him would be Sinn Féin.
His stance comes as a shock given Mr Wilson’s strong Fianna Fáil connections, particularly with brother Diarmuid a sitting senator.
Mr Wilson told The Anglo-Celt: “As of right now, I am a member of no political party. But there is only one party though I’d be attracted to, and that’d be Sinn Féin. They’re the only party I’d consider joining, if I were to join a political party today.”
A guest speaker at the Sinn Féin summer school in Baile Bhuirne, Co Cork, earlier this year, Mr Wilson says he has not spoke with party hierarchy about the possibility of running under their banner.
However, despite his admiration, Mr Wilson says he finds himself at extreme odds with the party’s stance on the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill, passed last year.
“Human life is sacred. It should really be called the 'Destruction of Life Bill’.”
Despite being a Fianna Fáil supporter all his life, Mr Wilson admits he did not vote for Fianna Fáil in either the last European or local elections.
“Fianna Fáil were always a party who were very much in touch with the people. They have lost touch with that. They stopped being a party for the little man.”
Mr Wilson went so far as to express his belief that John McGuinness, chairman of the Public Accounts Committee is the “only man” who can really guide Fianna Fáil back to popular power.
“I’ve great respect for John McGuinness. But I wouldn’t countenance joining Fianna Fáil at the present time. I believe Mr McGuinness is a person who can reform the party and make it electable again. He’s a wonderful individual and through the PAC people have seen he is determined to bring accountability.”
Mr Wilson had planned to run as an independent candidate in the newly formed six-seater Cavan-Belturbet electoral area in the elections on May 23, but ill health and recovering from a subsequent operation forced him to drop out of the race; one in which he was hotly tipped at ground-level to do very well.
Now, since receiving the all-clear from cancer, Mr Wilson gave the clearest indication yet he is preparing to step into the political arena proper in 2016.
“I’m extremely lucky to be alive”, Mr Wilson observes, adding that he has no regrets on dropping out of the local election race, feeling it was the right decision at the time.
A routine colonoscopy, saw general surgeon at Cavan General, Dr Pawan Rajpal, inform Mr Wilson on March 18 that he had a massive tumour on the bowel.
“He said, 'John, you have a problem’... he didn’t have to tell me what the problem was. Instinctively maybe I knew, I knew it was cancer and he explained the situation to me.
“But I’m a realist. It wasn’t a case of, 'Oh why me?’” I just said: 'Let’s move on and deal with it’.”
After being sent for a CT Scan to ensure the cancer hadn’t further spread, Mr Wilson had an operation less than 24-hours later. He is effusive in his praise of the “incredible” treatment he received at the hands of Dr Rajpal and staff at the hospital.
“They should be used as an example for how things should be run in the health service,” he said.
Even though the operation on his bowel was a total success, Mr Wilson still had a worrying six months to wait until hearing word back on a check-up.
“I got scoped and scanned in early September, and I met Dr Rajpal who said everything was grand, and yesterday (Tuesday, October 21) I met Dr (John) McCaffrey (consultant oncologist), and he confirmed there were no traces of cancer left in my body.
“I didn’t sleep a wink the night before. The word 'oncology’, the word 'cancer’ frightens people. It frightens me, because there had been no history of cancer in my family. Cancer was always a disease that was going to affect someone else. But the reality is, it’s a disease that doesn’t care. It doesn’t care about social status, who you are, rich or poor. It’s an equal opportunities killer.
“Even though I knew everything was OK, to get the reassurance from him (Dr McCaffery) was great.”
Mr Wilson says the number of people he has met, who have came up to him in the street to wish him well in his recovery was “overwhelming”.
“I was never a very sociable person. I never really had a lot of friends, always a kind of loner. But the response I’ve had over the last year or so, through everything I’ve been through, the whistleblowing, Justice4All, cancer, campaigning with Luke, the support they’ve given me, cards and well-wishes has been incredible.”
Even while recovering, Mr Wilson still kept his toe in the political pond, as chairperson of the Justice4All group, which assists victims of Garda malpractice and Garda corruption, and as 'Ming’ Flanagan’s chosen substitute candidate in Europe should his tenure be cut short.
“As I said before, there is a lot more to Luke than just the legalise cannabis thing. He’s one of the most genuine people I’ve ever met in my life. He is just dedicated to looking out for people, and does an awful lot of work that nobody knows about. I’m very proud to be nominated as his replacement, it’s a great honour.”
If Mr Wilson does put his name on the General Election ballot sheet, he will hope the 'Ming Effect’, which proved crucial in elevating turfcutter Michael Fitzmaurice to the Dáil in Roscommon-South Leitrim, will also transfer to his campaign. Whether that’s in either Cavan-Monaghan, or Sligo, Leitrim, South Donegal and West Cavan, the new constituency in which Mr Wilson’s Crossdoney residence falls.
One topic on his early political mandate is particularly poignant given recent events - to see free cancer screening programme for all aged 45 and over rolled out at hospitals nationwide. Another is to have the millions of euros in payments avoided by those who had penalty points quashed now repaid in full.
After almost two decades of service, Mr Wilson left An Garda Siochana on May 1 last year feeling his position within the force was untenable following the fallout of the penalty points whistleblowing scandal; for example, he reports having had a rat tied to the door of his home.
“I believe in accountability. I believe in transparency. There are those who consider receiving a penalty points notice a very troubling experience. For others though it’s nothing more than a mere irritation, and necessitates a phonecall for it to go away.
“Even if I’m not elected it’s something I’ll press for. I’m not a fool, a lot can happen in two years - a week is a long time in politics, so they say.
“The people of Cavan-Monaghan are very intelligent people. I don’t know what my chances are, the constituencies have gone from five to four seats and traditionally independents don’t do well here. But it’s my intention to contest the next General Election.”
With interests in social justice and improving the lives of all, Mr Wilson sees the biggest problems affecting the region as housing, employment and emigration.
Referring to Budget 2015, he added: “The tens of thousands of people who left this country looking for work were not dancing in the streets of Melbourne or Sydney or wherever they are because Michael Noonan announced an extra €5 in Child Benefit.”
'A tax too far’
Above all, and he highlights the success of Anti Austerity Alliance TD Paul Murphy in the Dublin South-West by-election, Mr Wilson says the water charges are “a tax too far”.
“I went to that protest in Dublin and I didn’t see 100,000 members of the so-called 'looney left who object to everything’. There was a lot of middle Ireland, the hard-pressed people expected to pay for everything, and saddled with all the taxes, on top of the Property Tax, the USC and all the rest with it.
“It’s a tax too far, and unless something changes, this Government is going to pay a very high price in the next General Election. Water is a human right, and under this there are people across this country who are expected to pay for nothing short of poison, pure slop.”
While acknowledging that fiscal change was needed, he accuses the Coalition of arrogance in pushing through new taxes since they came to power.
“It’s not a case of we need to bring in certain taxes. With this government it was a case of 'We’re bringing them in and you’re going to pay them’. No matter which way they dress it up, this is not a people government. “They focused too much on finances and forgot about people. They went too far.”