Commissioner says lessons learned after Garda scandals

Gardaí remain vigilant over terrorist attacks, says commissioner

Speaking at an Oireachtas committee, Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan said difficult lessons have been learned from events of recent years. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill

Speaking at an Oireachtas committee, Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan said difficult lessons have been learned from events of recent years. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill

 

Scandals over recent years have impacted on public trust in An Garda Síochána but ongoing reforms will create a “world class” police service, according to Garda commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan.

Speaking to an Oireachtas committee this afternoon, she said difficult lessons have been learned from events of recent years – during which time controversies have erupted over penalty points, the treatment of Garda whistleblowers and use of surveillance techniques – but said a “transformational spine” is now being implemented to effect change in the organisation.

She was discussing the publication of the Annual Policing Plan 2015, part of which focuses on attempts to ensure Ireland’s security in the face of a global threat posed by terrorists and extremist organisations.

While mindful of the threat of potential “trigger attacks” abroad and the prospect of “lone wolf” incidents occurring, the commissioner insisted that Ireland is at no particular risk.

She was also faced with various questions over threatening behaviour from organised gangs in urban communities, and said that intimidation meted out by criminals in drug-related cases remains a particular concern following Dublin TD Finian McGrath’s observations that “whole estates” are afraid to go to the gardaí.

Fianna Fáil’s justice spokesperson Niall Collins criticised a “diminution” in Garda presence and services in the 140 areas which have seen station closures since the introduction of cost-saving measures in 2012. The commissioner stated there are no plans to reopen such stations.

When questioned on the current overall strength of the force, which stands at 12,800 personnel according to the Limerick TD, the commissioner emphasised her desire to see a repeated intake of recruits following the admission of 299 trainee gardaí to Templemore last year.

According to her, there will need to be a continued annual intake of 325 trainee recruits in order to maintain current staffing levels, which she would like to see increased if possible.

She added that An Garda Síochána’s ICT equipment is in need of “significant investment” if it is to be modernised in line with other police services globally.

Although the organisation has moved from “making do” with outdated technology to actively planning for the future, chief administrative officer Cyril Dunne said improvements are needed to the Garda Pulse system in order to modernise it.

On foot of a question from Fine Gael’s Fergus O’Dowd, it was confirmed that almost 9,000 people jailed for non-payment of fines last year had to be accompanied to detention facilities by gardaí in squad cars, or taxis in some instances, only to be released later that day as happened in many cases.