Garda Ombudsman Commission insists it will not resign
Leading officials say focus must now be on positive relations with Garda
GSOC chairman Simon O’Brien photographed at the launch of the GSOC annual report 2013 at the Garda Ombudsman’s office in Dublin. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times
The leadership of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (Gsoc) has dismissed calls by some Garda members to resign over their handling of recent controversies, saying the commissioners were “going nowhere”.
“We’ve got no intention of resigning,” said GSOC chairman Simon O’Brien.
“We are discharging an important public function… we look forward to whatever legislative changes may strengthen our powers and we’re looking forward to a future.”
Mr O’Brien was responding to calls last week by members of the Garda Representative Association (GRA) in Dublin’s south inner city for the three-person commission at the head of commission to resign.
A spokesman for the branch and former GRA president, Damien McCarthy said he and his colleagues had no confidence in the three officials at the helm of the organisation.
The rank-and-file gardaí believe the investigation by GSOC into its own suspicions that it was under physical, as well as electronic, surveillance last year was so flawed they had lost confidence in those leading the watching - Mr O’Brien and his fellow commissioners Carmel Foley and Kieran Fitzgerald.
Speaking at the launch of the commission’s annual report for 2013 today, however, Mr O’Brien said the surveillance controversy had been debated in full and had also been the subject of the Cooke inquiry.
He believed it was now time to look forward and to focus on working well with the Garda force to improve oversight. Further comment on the Cooke report may be best saved for any Oireachtas committee hearing he and his colleagues might be called before.
In its annual report published today, Gsoc said the number of complaints about gardaí received from the public reached 2,027 last year, slightly lower that the 2,089 complaints in 2012.
The four most common types of allegation related to abuse of authority (34 per cent); neglect of duty (27 per cent); non-fatal offences (13 per cent); and discourtesy (11 per cent).
The Garda Commissioner referred 41 incidents to GSOC for independent investigation, down from 72 in 2012. Most of the decline was due to a fall in road traffic incidents involving gardai and in which people were seriously injured or killed.
In the past week GSOC’s deputy director of investigations Ray Leonard resigned after writing a submission to the review of Garda oversight currently underway by the Oireachtas Committee on Justice and Defence.
He questioned the need for three commissioners to head Gsoc and also said the agency was lacking in independence to such an extent that it was not an ombudsman in the true sense.
When asked about Mr Leonard’s remarks today, Ms Foley said GSOC had worked well with three commissioners but its make-up would likely be reviewed as part of the examination already underway into Garda oversight.
Mr O’Brien said while the current structure of GSOC had worked in the seven years since its inception that may change based on the demands of “the next seven years”.
Any reorganisation would be up to the legislature, even though GSOC had recommended many changes to the joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice and Defence around strengthening its investigative powers and making it more independent.