Garda Commissioner defends force’s handling of informants

Disclosing identities would result in ‘bodies lying all over the country’, Callinan says

Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan has rejected criticism by the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission over the force's handling of informants, saying there would be people murdered across the State unless information about their identities was closely guarded.

He also said that while the relationship between his force and the Garda complaints body was at times characterised by tension and was not “rosy”, both bodies were working together to improve relations after a serious public disagreement earlier this year.

In the past the ombudsman commission has made requests for information about Garda informants and the force has been reluctant to comply. But Mr Callinan defended the Garda’s conservative approach to disclosures about informants.

He said the identities of people supplying information must be protected and not disclosed, save to a select few in very controlled circumstances.

“Otherwise we will have bodies lying all over the country,” he said in reference to the murderous intent crime gangs have towards informants.

Of the Garda’s relationships with the ombudsman commission, he said: “Will there be tensions? Will there be issues? Of course there will.” However, he said he believed debate on the relationship between the Garda and the commission was best conducted privately between both organisations.

He was addressing the joint Oireachtas Public Service Oversight and Petitions Committee.

His comments were in response to statements to the committee by the ombudsman commission in July when its officers said the Garda had failed to comply in a timely manner with a large number of requests for information during the course of a major inquiry by it. This concerned a convicted drug dealer being used as an informant while allegedly still dealing in drugs and against whom serious drug dealing charges were dropped. No findings of wrongdoing were proven, although the commission was critical of the way it said the force had delayed the inquiry.

The commission suggested members of the force would still be in a position to use informants without recording them on a register introduced to monitor the area.

Mr Callinan yesterday told the committee he was not aware of any such cases.

Conor Lally

Conor Lally

Conor Lally is Security and Crime Editor of The Irish Times