Agsi must resolve ‘difficulties’ to build trust in Garda
Amid whistleblower claims, Flanagan calls on Garda leaders to adhere to high standards
Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors general secretary John Jacob: “I don’t agree that the allegations have cast a cloud or a shadow over the conference.” Photograph: Lorraine Teevan
Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan has told Garda sergeants and inspectors they must resolve their “difficulties” because the country needed to be able to trust them.
He was addressing members of the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (Agsi) as its annual conference opened under a cloud on Monday evening.
It has emerged that two members of Agsi have lodged protected disclosures accusing another member of double-jobbing by working as a security consultant for Coolmore Stud in Co Tipperary. The allegations are now under investigation by the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation.
Mr Flanagan told delegates he was aware Agsi was “having some difficulties” and that some of its “senior members have felt unable to attend” the conference this year. He said he hoped the issues would soon be resolved.
“As Garda sergeants and inspectors, you need a strong association, in which you can have confidence,” he told the conference. “As Minister, I need a strong association which I can trust represents you. And as a country, we need a Garda leadership which we know adheres to the highest standards.”
Speaking to reporters, Mr Flanagan would not be drawn on whether the Agsi member under investigation should step aside pending the outcome of the inquiry. He said he had no plans to involve himself in matters being investigated by the Garda or issues that had arisen within the association.
John Jacob, Agsi general secretary, said it had not been “clearly articulated” that some delegates were absent from the three-day conference in Ballyconnell, Co Cavan. He said 140 delegates were present and they had many pressing issues affected sergeants and inspectors and national policing to discuss.
“The delegates that have spoken to me are not concerned about those allegations and they want to get on with the agenda,” he said. “I don’t agree that the allegations have cast a cloud or a shadow over the conference. The person at the centre of the allegations should be entitled to the anonymity that is given to anybody else facing other allegations.
Mr Jacob said “due process should be allowed to take its course” and that, in the past, the association “has supported any of its members facing allegations and that will happen on this occasion, too”.
Away from the controversy, when asked about an incident last month when Garda Commissioner Drew Harris was driven into Garda headquarters in a Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) vehicle, Mr Flanagan said he was satisfied all security protocols were followed on the day.
He refused to be drawn on whether he would allow himself to be driven into the Department of Justice by PSNI members in one of their vehicles. But he said when he went to the North he was accompanied by Garda members, adding that a protocol between the two jurisdictions allowed for it.
Mr Flanagan also said that while concerns had been raised about the level of supervision of rank-and-file gardaí by sergeants and inspectors in recent years, he was pleased that middle-management ranks had been bolstered with promotions in recent months.
He said almost 450 sergeants and inspectors have been “promoted and allocated to frontline policing duties” since October and that another competition to fill sergeant vacancies would be run by the end of the year.
He said he was also “happy to report” that the full strength of the Garda had passed 14,000 members as of last December for the first time since 2011.