Morris tribunal recommendations yet to be implemented by An Garda

Ombudsman says officers are routinely unwilling to take part in even informal attempts to resolve complaints

Garda Ombudsman Commissioner Carmel Foley who said the force had to undergo a culture change following the establishment of the Ombudsman seven years ago.   Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Garda Ombudsman Commissioner Carmel Foley who said the force had to undergo a culture change following the establishment of the Ombudsman seven years ago. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Wed, Jul 3, 2013, 20:55

Garda management have still not overhauled the force as recommended by the Morris tribunal seven years ago, according to the Garda Ombudsman.

Carmel Foley, one of the three Garda Ombudsman commissioners, told the Committee on Public Service, Oversight and Petitions today that many shortcomings indentified by the investigation had yet to be addressed.

The Ombudsman also claimed the Garda was suffering a huge shock to the system from being asked to account for itself.

Ms Foley said the force had to undergo a culture change. “There is no doubt that oversight by a body (the Ombudsman) which is seven years in operation is a huge shock to the system.”

Ms Foley said until the Ombudsman was handed oversight powers in the wake of the Morris tribunal, no other State body could carry out activities similar to the Garda.

“The first time we entered a Garda station with a search warrant there was some shock to system,” she said. “The first time we arrested a garda there was shock.”

She said officers were routinely unwilling to take part in even informal attempts to resolve complaints against them.

Instead they “come in with their lawyers and say ‘no comment, no comment, no comment’,” she said.

Simon O’Brien, chairman of the Garda Ombudsman, criticised the Garda for delaying its investigations and questioning the motives of the watchdog.

“That one State body investigating another should be asked for the relevance of a request, before materials pertinent to an investigation are released, is a matter of considerable concern,” he said.

The Garda Ombudsman was asked to appear before the committee after it criticised the force in May for not co-operating.

Mr O’Brien revealed planned talks between Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan and the Ombudsman to resolve the row - to be chaired by Minister for Justice Alan Shatter - had still not taken place.

The planned meeting was announced two months ago as the Ombudsman launched its annual report, which was scathing about the “unacceptable” delays and the refusal of officers to hand over documents crucial to their inquiries.

That the Garda Ombudsman was in the Oireachtas making their remarks public again, reflected “the serious place we are at, at this time”, he said.

Kieran Fitzgerald, another of the three commissioners, said serious deficiencies remained in the force’s management of procedures on the use of informants.

Mr Fitzgerald said not all of the deficiencies uncovered by the Morris tribunal had been remedied. “Our concerns are not historical, they relate to the present day,” he said.

PA