Over the past 30 years, whistleblowers have laid the groundwork for exposing some of the biggest scandals in Irish business and politics.

It was a claim by a whistleblower that led to a series of costly but highly revealing tribunals at Dublin Castle, which ultimately led to the downfall of former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern.

More recently, the whistleblower Maurice McCabe risked the wrath of his colleagues to expose malpractices in An Garda Síochána, which led to yet another tribunal in the castle.

McCabe's revelations were later described by one Justice Minister as a huge opportunity to transform the Gardaí. But he was effectively out of a job by then.

Not everyone who claims to be a whistleblower gets it right. Some – not always driven by the best of motives – come with stories to tell which do not always stack up.

But such cases are rare. Maybe I’ve been lucky, but the whistleblowers that I’ve met have been solid, decent people. However, they weren’t seen that way by some colleagues, who typically viewed them as mavericks who were letting the side down.

One whistleblower who comes to mind is Olivia Greene, a former loans supervisor who blew the whistle on reckless lending at Irish Nationwide Building Society, in what she later described as an act of career suicide. For as Olivia pointed out, she never got a job again in financial services

Equally impressive is Seamus O’Loughlin, who performed a clear public service in exposing the leaking of a powerful greenhouse gas called SF6. The leaks were in such volumes, they equated to the release of 55,000 tonnes of C02 into the atmosphere.

His employer, the ESB, was forced into making wholesale changes to environmental safeguards. But, just like Maurice McCabe and others before him, the saga took a personal toll on Mr O'Loughlin and his family.

The ESB health and safety manager used the protected disclosures legislation, but he still found himself out on sick leave for over two years suffering from stress.

So, the reality is that you can have all the laws in the world but until Irish organisations and the people who run them embrace the real value of whistleblowers, these brave men and women will continue to be viewed by their bosses and colleagues as troublemakers – rather than for their true potential as a powerful force for change.