Gsoc head questions report-based approach to Garda reform

Judge Mary Ellen Ring says reports on Garda Síochána operations are not acted on

Judge Mary Ellen Ring: expressed scepticism as to whether another report would precipitate action, in light of the work of the Garda Inspectorate.  Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

Judge Mary Ellen Ring: expressed scepticism as to whether another report would precipitate action, in light of the work of the Garda Inspectorate. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

 

The head of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (Gsoc) has queried the need for a commission to examine the future of policing.

Over the weekend the chair of the complaints body, Judge Mary Ellen Ring, said experience had shown reports in relation to the management of An Garda Síochána have not been acted upon.

Judge Ring expressed scepticism as to whether another report would precipitate action, in light of the work of the Garda Inspectorate.

The judge told a Sunday newspaper that, since 2005, the inspectorate has comprehensively engaged with all Garda Síochána stakeholders and delivered recommendations for reform across the board. This process has spanned four governments containing several political parties.

“I would have thought you could have this commission done and dusted by December 1st if they just sat down and read the [inspectorate’s] reports,” she told the Sunday Business Post.

“Why are they now coming up with a commission?” she added.

Judge Ring said there was no guarantee that the report delivered by the Commission on the Future of Policing in September 2018 would be acted upon.

Senior management

She expressed doubt as to how many politicians, who talk about policing reform, had actually read the inspectorate’s reports. On the issue of Garda reform, she said change requires vision and not just a “sweep out” of senior management.

“Clearly there are management issues and challenges but if you are only going to start at the top, you are not going to get change.

“You have to bring the whole of the organisation on board. You have to be clear what you’re doing, why you’re doing it and what role every person is playing in that change,” she said.

Judge Ring has also called for a beefing-up of Gsoc’s powers of investigation to include wider powers of search and seizure, along with further personnel resources to handle the watchdog’s expanded remit of probing protected disclosures.

While Judge Ring believes Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald is sincere in wanting to address deficiencies in Garda oversight, a number of factors, including political instability, meant legislative reform would not happen this year.

The head of the watchdog also warned of potential fair procedure frailties in the protected disclosures legislation that could lead to a successful legal challenge. The problem relates to protecting the identity of an alleged whistleblower while vindicating the right of an accused person to know and challenge their accuser.