Independent Garda review body to include international experts

Cabinet to appoint members of external group that will conduct examination of the force

Tánaiste and Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald and Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan. File photograph: Cyril Byrne

Tánaiste and Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald and Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan. File photograph: Cyril Byrne

 

The Cabinet will on Tuesday agree to appoint up to eight members to an independent commission tasked with conducting a root-and-branch review of An Garda Síochána.

Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald will seek approval to appoint a chairperson to the body, which will carry out a 15-month examination of the force, but her spokesman on Monday night declined to comment on that person’s identity.

A number of international experts are expected to be appointed to the body.

Independent Alliance members in Government had proposed former Northern Ireland ombudsman Nuala O’Loan, but she is not expected to be selected.

The draft terms of reference for the commission will also be discussed but will not be finalised until next week’s meeting.

Ms Fitzgerald will seek further consultation with the chairperson before agreeing to the scope of the investigation.

Separate bodies

The inquiry will examine whether gardaí should retain responsibility for community safety, State security and immigration or whether separate bodies should be tasked with such roles.

The structures and management arrangement, including whether there are adequate management and supervisory systems in place, will be assessed.

The governance and oversight of the force, the consequences for breaches of discipline, the method of examining complaints made against the force and the powers of external bodies including the Garda Inspectorate will be examined.

The appropriate composition, recruitment and training of personnel, the culture and ethos of policing and the legislative framework will also feature as part of the inquiry.

The Department of Justice has consulted Opposition spokespersons, the Policing Authority and the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission over the scope of the inquiry.

Meanwhile, the Policing Authority has requested further information on an issue raised by a civilian data analyst with the Garda Commissioner about homicide statistics.

Advance copy

Josephine Feehily, the authority’s chairwoman, said on Sunday that she would be following up with Nóirín O’Sullivan, the commissioner, reports that the head of the analysis unit, Dr Gurchand Singh, had told the commissioner that he and his team had not been given an advance copy of a report on homicide statistics before it was submitted to the authority.

Dr Singh’s letter appears to contradict a suggestion made at a public meeting of the authority that there had been a “united and joint” review by gardaí and civilian analysts of the statistics carried out following the controversy around the fake breathalyser tests.

“This follow-up is in progress and the authority has no further comment to make at this time,” said a spokesman for the Policing Authority on Monday.

A Garda spokesman made no comment on Dr Singh’s letter. A series of questions asked by The Irish Times about Dr Singh and the concerns that he has raised had been passed to the commissioner’s office, he said.

Different accounts

Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin have reiterated their call for the commissioner to consider her position in light of the revelations.

Last week, John Barrett, the Garda’s director of human resources, and the commissioner offered two different accounts of a meeting to discuss financial irregularities at the Garda training college in Templemore, Co Tipperary.

Mr Barrett told the Dáil Public Accounts Committee that they had a two-hour meeting in July 2015; Ms O’Sullivan said it was a “brief” exchange over a cup of tea.

A spokesman for the Minister for Justice said Ms O’Sullivan was due to appear before the Public Accounts Committee later this month where the issues would be discussed further.

Government sources said the dispute was an issue over the length of the meeting and it would not be getting involved in internal Garda rows.

A Garda spokesman said the force “does not comment on the detail of internal correspondence, or on correspondence to and from the Policing Authority. The Policing Authority will be kept informed of matters arising from any relevant issues in this instance.”