Full text of GSOC presentation to Oireachtas Committee

Garda Ombudsman appeared before TDs and Senators today

Garda Ombudsman Commission office  Abbey Street Upper. Photograph: Collins

Garda Ombudsman Commission office Abbey Street Upper. Photograph: Collins

Wed, Feb 12, 2014, 18:44

Below is the full text of today’s presentation by the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Public Service Oversight and Petitions :

Good afternoon, Chairman and Committee members. Thank you for the invitation to come before you today.

As you know, the Commission was previously before you on the 3rd July 2013. On that occasion, we discussed issues which had arisen in the context of our capacity to properly investigate complaints alleging garda misbehaviour.

More specifically, we reported to you on what we felt were undue delays by the Garda Síochána in the provision of information relating to investigations.

The exchange of information between the Garda Síochána and GSOC is essentially managed under agreed Protocols drawn up under section 108 of the Garda Síochána Act 2005, as amended. Protocols had been in place between the two organisations since commencement of GSOC’s operations in 2007.

As outlined by us in July 2013, we were in negotiations with the Garda Síochána on the revision of those Protocols.

In GSOC’s Annual Report for 2012, and in a section 80(5) report which was laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas, we reported on the delays caused to our investigations and the non-compliance by the Garda Síochána with timelines for the provision of information.

In the meantime, since our appearance before you, revised Protocols were agreed and signed off on the 23rd September 2013 by the Chairman of the Commission and the Garda Commissioner.

The operation of these revised Protocols is a work in progress; however, both organisations are actively working to ensure compliance through ongoing monitoring and review. Indications are that some improvement in the system can be seen.

The Commission is happy to discuss any matters in relation to those issues with you today.

In the last week, as you will be aware, information relating to a specific security sweep was published without authorisation having been given by this Commission. As a consequence of the publication, a focus on GSOC and other agencies has been intense.

Firstly, we would like to point out our unhappiness with the release of the contents of a secret document into the public domain. The media coverage at the weekend took us all by surprise. Since Sunday last, we have been briefing the Minister and the Garda Commissioner, dealing with press queries and so on.

As a direct result of the newspaper coverage on Sunday, I - as Chairman of the Commission - was called to see the Minister on Monday of this week. Over a period of two hours, I updated the Minister on the situation.

I should point out that there is an inaccuracy referenced in three separate places in a report that may come into the public domain; I pointed out the presence of inaccuracies to the Minister.

I laid out to the Minister that, in view of the amount of detail in the public domain last Sunday, the Commission strongly suspects that a copy of a section of a report which is marked “secret” was possibly in the hands of a journalist. I expressed my regret to the Minister that he had been blindsided by the appearance of this information in the media.

I must explain to the Committee my clear recollection of the reasons and the thinking to retain a UK specialist company. I should inform the Committee that the final investigation report and the UK specialist company documentation make reference to reasons for the sweep that do not accord with my recollection of those reasons. This is a matter that I identified in my own notes short after receiving and considering the final investigation report.

I can only assume that this arose because of a misunderstanding and I make no criticism of the authors. However, I am categorical in my recollection of the reasons but it is, nevertheless, important in the interest of clarity that this is brought to the attention of the Committee.

On Monday, we launched an internal inquiry to see how much information was in the public domain.

The three Commissioners met Secretary General on Tuesday afternoon to further update the position. Later that afternoon, after a kind invitation from the Commissioner, I met him privately in Garda HQ to brief him. He again had been blindsided by the release of this information. He was understandably concerned and during our two hour meeting I tried to allay his sense of grievance.

We have agreed that for the benefit of public confidence to ensure that we continue to maintain and develop the relationship between our two organisations. We both agreed to try to find a way through this crisis.

Last night, we felt that the level of public discourse was such that we needed to appear in public and answer questions. The Commission was represented on Prime Time and that was another way to update the wider public in relation to this series of unfolding events.