Whistleblowers and the media have always gone hand in hand.

And in the Irish Mail on Sunday we have worked with and protected the identity of many whistleblowers who made a real difference by coming forward with the truth and the evidence to prove it.

But now – thanks to new legislation – a new era of legal protection for whistleblowers is here.

If you are aware of waste, illegality, fraud or abuse at your workplace, the Protected Disclosures Act 2014 offers Irish workers some of the best whistleblowing protections on the planet. Don’t take our word for it – that’s the opinion of  leading trade union Impact.

Under the law whistleblowers are obliged to first consider reporting their concerns internally to the person prescribed by their employer to receive disclosures.

However, the Protected Disclosures Act also allows whistleblowers to make confidential disclosures to journalists and media organisations in certain circumstances. This is vital because whistleblowing to your own superiors can backfire or be covered up – as is often the case. 

The stories highlighted in the gallery at base of this page came about because of brave whistleblowers who came forward to tell what they knew – often after previous disclosures to their superiors went nowhere.

The Protected Disclosures Act – in force since July 2014 – contains a very wide definition of employees who can avail of protections if they decide to blow the whistle. So you can seek protection as a whistleblower if you are a direct employee,  a contractor, an agency worker and even if you are a trainee or on a work experience placement.

Importantly, protection kicks in from your first day of employment and applies to both the private sector and the public sector – including the garda. Any wrongdoing you may wish to report does not have to have taken place in Ireland and does not have to have taken place since the Act came into force. So you can report events that took place long before the Act came into force.

Free independent advice on whistleblowing can be obtained from Transparency International, trade unions – and a quick Google will quickly get you going. For a fee, a trusted solicitor can also advise you about the risks and protections involved if you are thinking of making a protected disclosure. But the procedure is simple and easy to understand as outlined below.

Click here for a video on the protections afforded by the Protected Disclosures Act

If you want to make a protected disclosure to a journalist under the Protected Disclosures Act you must;

  • Reasonably believe that the information disclosed is substantially true;
  • The disclosure must not be made for personal gain; and
  • The making of the disclosure must in all the circumstances be reasonable.

In addition, one or more of the following conditions must be met:

  • At the time of making the disclosure you must reasonably believe that you will be subject to penalisation and detriment if the disclosure is made to the employer;

  • In a case where there is no prescribed person in an organisation to disclose to, you reasonably believe that evidence will be destroyed or concealed if a disclosure is made to the employer;

  • You have previously made a disclosure of substantially the same nature to either your employer or prescribed person and no action was taken; and

  • The relevant wrongdoing is of an exceptionally serious nature.

To be protected under the Protected Disclosures Act you must be disclosing one or more of the following:

  • A criminal act

  • Failure to comply with a legal requirement

  • A threat to health and safety (including risks to the public)

  • Misuse of public funds

  • Oppressive or discriminatory acts or omissions by a public body

  • Gross mismanagement or maladministration by a public body

  • Damage to the environment

  • A miscarriage of justice.

The Protected Disclosures Act provides whistleblowers with the following specific protections:

  • Protection from dismissal for having made a protected disclosure;- You can be awarded compensation of up to five years’ remuneration for unfair dismissal on the grounds of having made a protected disclosure. This is in stark contrast to the two years’ remuneration available under the existing statutory unfair dismissals regime. Also if you believe you ave been dismissed or threatened with dismissal for having made a protected disclosure  you can apply to the Circuit Court to restrain the dismissal;

  • Protection from penalisation by the employer;

  • Civil immunity from action for damages and a qualified privilege under defamation law;

  • A right of action in tort where a whistleblower or a member of his family experiences coercion, intimidation, harassment or discrimination at the hands of a third party;

  • Protection of your identity (subject to certain exceptions); and

  • It will not be a criminal offence to make a whistleblowing report which is a protected disclosure under the Act.

The Gallery below shows just some examples of stories published by the Irish Mail on Sunday – and results achieved – as a result of disclosures being made to us by whistleblowers. 

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Advice for whistleblowers