Varadkar ‘unfair to gardaí’ over Jobstown evidence, says Martin

GRA admits there is a problem with Garda credibility but not with front line officers

Speaking on RTÉ's Prime Time, An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has expressed his concern over the evidence given by gardaí during a trial over the alleged false imprisonment of Joan Burton TD in Jobstown. Video: RTÉ

 

A call by the Taoiseach for the Garda Commissioner to examine evidence given by members of the force at the Jobstown trial is unfair to gardaí, according to the Fianna Fáil leader.

Fianna Fail leader Michael Martin described as “ill judged” and “not fair” comments made by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar about Jobstown.

Speaking on Friday at a Jack Lynch symposium in University College Cork, Mr Martin stressed he was very concerned about the comments.

“It was ill judged. First of all the courts process is independent. The DPP is independent. I think politicians need to be very careful about wandering in to that domain and in particular specific acts of evidence of what was a very lengthy trial.

I was concerned about the Taoiseach’s comments. I do not think they were fair to the gardaí who gave evidence during that trial because he has left an impression, although he heavily caveats what he says to be fair, but nonetheless he gives the impression that those gardaí didn’t give the full truth in accordance with the facts.”

On PrimeTime Mr Varadkar said he did not think a public inquiry would serve any purpose.

Following Thursday night’s broadcast, the Garda said a review into “the policing response and the subsequent investigation into the incident” at Jobstown began last Friday. It is being carried out by Assistant Commissioner Barry O’Brien.

The review would identify organisational practices and policies which require improvement and would look at training and “other issues of note”.

Against a background of repeated allegations that the evidence of Garda witnesses was not accurate, Mr Varadkar’s remarks were interpreted in political circles as a clear request to the Garda to act on questions raised by the acquittal of Paul Murphy TD and other water charge protesters.

On Friday morning Solidarity TD Paul Murphy said the Taoiseach’s comments were “some level at least of implicit admission that something seriously wrong may have been happening in this case.”

“The idea of gardaí investigating gardaí is clearly not a very sensible way to go about investigating it - so we will be stepping up our calls for an independent and public inquiry,” Mr Murphy said.

Mr Murphy has alleged, under Dáil privilege, that the case against him and his co-accused was politically motivated and based on evidence from gardaí that was not truthful.

The Garda Representative Association ( GRA) said it does not believe a public inquiry was necessary into Garda evidence in the Jobstown trial.

GRA spokesperson John O’Keefe said on Friday the issue was being treated as a political football and yet again “gardaí are being put in the middle of a political whipping. We’re non-political” he told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.

Mr O’Keffe said if any member of the public was concerned about the behaviour of gardaí then they had a number of avenues they could pursue including reporting it to GSOC, the Policing Authority and the Garda Ombudsman.

He acknowledged there was a problem with Garda credibility but this was not with front line officers who still had an 80 per cent to 90 per cent trust rating with the public.

“Rank and file gardaí are doing their job to the best of their ability. In a case where gardaí may or may not have lied then there are correct avenues for people to follow.”

In his comments on Thursday night the Taoiseach said: “People need to trust what the gardaí say on the stand.”

He could understand when “people are caught up in the heat of the moment, they may have a recollection that isn’t exactly as things happened.

“But I would be very concerned if it’s the case that we would ever have gardaí on a stand in the courts giving evidence that is not in line with the facts; that is not in line with, for example, the video evidence . . .

“We need to be able to trust that when the gardaí stand up in court and they say something happened, that it did happen. And it shouldn’t conflict with the video evidence. And if it does, then that is a problem.”