Smithwick Tribunal report: Culture must change if confidence in Garda is to be maintained, says Judge
Judge’s remarks follow his belief, contained in his report, that two earlier investigations into claims of collusion with the IRA ‘were inadequate’
Judge Peter Smithwick: ‘It is particularly regrettable that both police services acted swiftly to dismiss speculation of the possibility of collusion rather than to deal with that by means of a thorough and credible investigation.’ Picture: Matt Kavanagh
Confidence in the Garda can be maintained only if “political expediency” and a culture of “failing adequately to address suggestions of wrongdoing” is tackled, the tribunal found.
Such a culture, Judge Peter Smithwick wrote, “either for reasons of political expediency or by virtue of misguided loyalty, has been a feature of life in this State”.
He added: “Too often that culture has resulted, some years later, after doubts, grievances and injustices have festered, in the setting up of investigations, commissions or tribunals of inquiry.”
His remarks follow his belief, contained in his report, that two earlier investigations into claims of collusion with the IRA “were inadequate”.
“I think that the best opportunity of establishing the truth of the matter arose in the days and weeks following the ambush,” he wrote.
“In these circumstances, it is particularly regrettable that both police services acted swiftly to dismiss speculation of the possibility of collusion rather than to deal with that by means of a thorough and credible investigation.”
This was an example of “the prioritisation of political expediency in the short term, without due regard to the rights of victims and the importance of placing justice at the centre of any policing system”.
The judge continued: “The integrity of and confidence in An Garda Síochána can properly be maintained only if suggestions of inappropriate or illegal conduct by members are taken seriously, transparently and thoroughly investigated and, above all, not tolerated or ignored on the basis of some misguided sense of loyalty to the force or to its members.”
In relation to evidence given by Tom Curran, a retired senior officer, the Judge said he was an officer of the utmost integrity. “I would have thought he is as deserving of the support of the Garda Commissioner as any other former officer. However, it seems to me that because he was giving evidence of which An Garda Síochána did not approve, such support was not forthcoming.
“I regret to say that this suggests to me that there prevails in An Garda Síochána today a prioritisation of the protection of the good name of the force over the protection of those who seek to tell the truth.
“Loyalty is prized above honesty. My life experience tells me that such a culture is not unique to An Garda Síochána; all large organisations struggle with this issue.
“However, given that I have already concluded that political expediency and the prioritisation of the good name of the force contributed to suggestions of collusion in these killings not being properly investigated when they first arose, the fact that such a culture and attitude is still prevalent now, more than 20 years on, in the context of the work of this Tribunal, is disheartening and depressing”.
Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan in a statement last night welcomed the publication of the Smithwick Tribunal report and said it would be carefully examined. He said it would be inappropriate to comment further at this stage.
In the past when large reports have been published by tribunals relating to the work of the Garda, commissioners of the day have appointed small teams of senior officers to review the reports to identify any matters warranting criminal investigation, internal disciplinary procedures or organisational reforms.
This will likely occur in the case of the Smithwick report as early as this week.
The Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) said it was aware the report had been published but was unable to say if the matters raised warranted investigation by it.
Some of the issues raised by the report, including inaction by the force when possible wrongdoing emerged and matters not being investigated out of misguided loyalty, were raised by the Morris Tribunal reports.