AGSI calls for Garda bodies to be consulted on policing authority

Delegates back idea of a new organisation to oversee operation of force

The Government has been urged by a leading AGSI official to consult with garda representative associations as well as other stakeholders when formulating a model for a policing authority to oversee the operation of An Garda Síochána.

AGSI deputy general secretary, John Jacob told the association's annual conference in Killarney that AGSI, which represents some 2,000 middle ranking gardai, had long backed the idea of the force being accountable to a policing authority.

Mr Jacob pointed that there were a number of policing authority models and he cited the example of Scotland, England and Wales and Sweden as well as Northern Ireland where the PSNI is answerable to the Northern Ireland Policing Authority.

“Police authorities are not new. The method of appointment varies from government appointment to local election .... in England and Wales, for example, they have a police and crime commissioner in each of the police areas,” he said.


Mr Jacob pointed out that these commissioners are elected individuals who have a clear role and function and replaced the police authority which operated there until 2012 and they are supported in their work by a police crime panel made up of local representatives and two lay people.

These police crime panels exist to scrutinise the police and crime commissioner, to promote openness in the transaction of police business and also to support the police and crime commissioners on the effective exercise of their functions, he explained.

Mr Jacob said the move from a police authority to a police crime panel was part of a reform package promised by both the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats amid growing concerns about the perceived lack of accountability of police authorities to the communities they serve.

“Ireland has a unique policing heritage and when Government decide to introduce a policing authority, it must be cognisant of the policing framework here in Ireland,” Mr Jacob told the 150 delegates attending the conference.

“While the Government should look at other models it must devise a model that suits Ireland and not attempt to transplant a model from somewhere else, just because one exists and it should be independent, accountable and adequately funded and resourced to do the tasks assigned.”

“AGSI call on Government to consult widely but more particularly we call on Government to engage with AGSI when developing a police authority model for Ireland, because we are satisfied can make a valuable contribution in this area,” he added.

Mr Jacob was speaking on a motion calling for the establishment of a policing authority tabled by the Donegal branch and proposed by John Gallagher who said the ideal of having a separate independent body overseeing gardai was not new despite much recent coverage in the media

"It's not new and what we are seeking very much part of what other organisations such as the Medical Council, the Bar Council do - even electricians have their own separate body to regulate and control and set standards for how they go about their professional business," he said

Mr Gallagher said that in the UK there were over 40 police bodies regulating local police forces and while there were no rules as to who sit on such bodies, the Irish version should include people with policing experience as well as people with judicial and mediation experience.

He said that it was accepted that the police authority would not oversee and regulate all aspects of policing and he instanced the issue of budgets and resources which would continue to be provided by central government.

And he pointed out that An Garda Síochána has already accepted and worked with other bodies such as GSOC and the Garda Inspectorate as well as co-operating with various tribunals and a policing authority would be no different in that regard.

“The public want and expect An Garda Siochana to be accountable and transparent and what’s more An Garda Siochana wants to be accountable and transparent to the public, “ said Mr Gallagher before the motion was passed unanimously by delegates.

Barry Roche

Barry Roche

Barry Roche is Southern Correspondent of The Irish Times