Statements on all sides of GSOC row add fuel to fire
Callinan should consider a more measured approach
Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan responded to the GSOC statement last night. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times
The tensions between the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC), the gardaí and the Government have caused a lot of noise and confusion in the last 24 hours.
Yet it didn’t have to descend to this level, with the relationship between the ombudsman and its force now seemingly poisonous and devoid of any shred of trust.
Both sides are to blame, with the suggestion that the Ombudsman’s offices have been placed under some sort of surveillance still lingering in the air.
GSOC’s statement last night said there was “no evidence of Garda misconduct” in what it called “electronic anomalies” which could not be “conclusively explained”.
It could be argued that GSOC was baiting the gardaí by referencing them in the statement, but it was necessary to do so, considering the media and public speculation that the gardaí were suspect.
It would have been much worse if GSOC left the gardaí out of the statement, a move which would have fed a thousand conspiracy theories.
The steam could have easily come out of the story at that stage, but Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan leapt on the GSOC statement, effectively adding fuel to the fire.
Callinan said he noted “in particular the assertion that there was no evidence of Garda misconduct”, adding: “It is a cause of grave concern that the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission’s statement contains a clear indication that An Garda Siochana was in some way suspected of complicity in this matter.”
While Mr Callinan was right to ask if the “anomalies” amounted to a security breach or a possible criminal offence, he perhaps would have been wiser not to take such public offence to GSOC’s statement.
A slightly more measured response would have calmed the situation, instead of upping the ante, with the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors now calling on GSOC chairman Simon O’Brien to consider his position.
It is only a few weeks since Mr Callinan said it was “quite disgusting” that two people out of a force of 13,000 could make “extraordinary” allegations about penalty points.
While the Commissioner has every right to defend the force, perhaps he should be measured in what he says.