About 20 gardaí have been suspended for more than a year
Two officers have been suspended from duty for nearly a decade, new figures show
The appointment of Drew Harris as Garda Commissioner last year has been associated with an increased focus on internal discipline. Photograph: Cyril Byrne
Some 20 gardaí have been on suspension from the force for over a year, with two officers suspended from duty for nearly a decade, new figures show.
Four of the gardaí suspended for more than 12 months are of sergeant rank, according to figures released by Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan, following a parliamentary question from then TD Clare Daly.
Two gardaí have been suspended from duty for eight to 10 years, and two others have been suspended for six to eight years, the figures show.
A further three members have been suspended for four to five years, and one for three to four years.
“A number of the long-term suspensions set out above are the subject of judicial proceedings,” Mr Flanagan told Ms Daly.
Garda Commissioner Drew Harris is required to review the cases of suspended members every three months at a minimum.
One of the 20 suspended officers is a member of the Garda reserve, while the remaining 15 are rank-and-file officers.
Five members were listed as suspended from duty for one to two years, and a further five had been on suspension for two to three years.
Ms Daly, who has since been elected as an MEP, submitted the parliamentary query in January. A response was only provided by Mr Flanagan this month.
Commenting on the figures, Ms Daly said they confirmed that “suspension is incredibly rare, and that when it is invoked, it is preserved for the lower ranks, with those at management level generally escaping this type of discipline.
“With so many problems being identified over the past number of years, from the breath tests to penalty points and so on, which were largely the result of poor management, it must be very hard for rank-and-file gardaí to see these grades escaping serious sanction,” she said.
Ms Daly said it was “incredibly odd” that there were members of the force suspended for up to 10 years in some cases. She questioned the difficulties posed to members potentially returning to duty after absences of several years.
“The changes that would have taken place during that time would really amount to the person having to start all over,” she said.
A Garda spokeswoman would not comment on the fact several outstanding disciplinary cases involved members suspended for several years.
Pat Ennis, general secretary of the Garda Representative Association, said it was not in the interest of anyone for members to remain on suspension for protracted periods.
“Members should not be suspended unless it is absolutely necessary and they should not be suspended for any longer than is absolutely necessary,” Mr Ennis said. “Several members remain on suspension for several years, sometimes because related matters arise, or challenges are before the courts.”
The appointment of Drew Harris as Garda Commissioner last year has been associated with an increased focus on internal discipline. The cases of the 20 members suspended for over a year predate his time in charge of An Garda Síochána.
However, Mr Harris has presided over several high-profile suspensions of seniors members of the force since taking office.
Last October he suspended the Garda’s civilian head of human resources, John Barrett, pending an inquiry into alleged issues surrounding his dealings with a Garda colleague.
Former superintendent David Taylor was also suspended late last year, following the publication of the report of the Disclosures Tribunal, which found he had helped to smear Garda whistleblower Maurice McCabe. However, Mr Taylor was allowed to retire on a full pension before an internal Garda investigation could be concluded.