Gsoc inquiry into use of EU funds at Templemore hit by ‘unforeseen delays’
Garda watchdog’s chairwoman tells PAC she cannot confirm end date of investigation
File image of recruits of Templemore. File photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times
The Garda watchdog’s investigation into the administration of European funds at the Garda training college in Templemore has been hit by “unforeseen delays” caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (Gsoc) chairwoman Ms Justice Mary Ellen Ring updated the Dáil’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on Wednesday on the status of the investigation, but could not offer a date for when it will finish.
She also raised the “challenge” posed by Gsoc’s overall workload, highlighting how the organisation has less than 40 investigators.
The PAC had sought an update from Gsoc in its investigation into how EU funds for training purposes in relation to the Garda college in Templemore were administered.
Gsoc has been investigating allegations that EU funds may have been diverted to a bank account in Dublin, the so-called “Cabra Account”, amid questions over what the money was used for.
The allegations date back as far as 1999. The account was open for 11 years and contained, at its peak, €90,000.
The EU’s anti-fraud agency Olaf has also investigated the matter. Olaf previously told the PAC that it could not provide information on the results of its investigation “so as not to prejudice any potential follow-up at national level”.
Ms Justice Ring said: “Gsoc’s investigation is a criminal investigation undertaken in the public interest” and the organisation is “limited in what information it can release at this time, to avoid potentially prejudicing the criminal investigation”.
The Covid-19 pandemic is said to have “caused unforeseen delays, which has regrettably impacted on the timeline for completion of the investigation”, she said.
Ms Justice Ring said the investigation is “now at an advanced stage, with some final statements being arranged”, and it will be concluded “as rapidly as possible”.
However, she could not provide a definitive date for when it will be finished.
Ms Justice Ring highlighted how Gsoc has an investigation team of less than 40 people and she outlined the watchdog’s workload in 2019 included 485 criminal investigations being opened and 250 disciplinary investigations starting the same year.
She said many investigations are carried over from one year to the next depending on what time of the year a complaint or referral was made, and the complexity of the case. Ms Justice Ring said: “We would hope from the above numbers alone you will see the challenge an oversight body with less than 40 investigators has in dealing with complaints of various complexity in relation to a Garda service of approximately 15,000 members.”
A spokesman for Gsoc confirmed that the investigation related to Templemore is ongoing but said the watchdog is anxious to bring it to completion “as soon as practical”.
He added: “As this investigation included a European element, delays arose during the investigation over which Gsoc had no control, especially having regard to the events of the last 12 months.”
The spokesman said Gsoc was provided with extra resources for the investigation and while the personnel provided are no longer with Gsoc full-time, they are available if required.