Opposition to Garda reforms mounts as superintendents strongly object

Oversight bodies ‘will have more power than gardaí when dealing with criminals’

The Government is facing mounting opposition to its efforts to reform the Garda, with superintendents now having joined Commissioner Drew Harris in speaking about against the planned changes.

The Association of Garda Superintendents said a reform process currenlty under way was about to give more power to oversight agencies to investigate Garda members than the force has to investigate criminals.

It believes agencies like the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (Gsoc) and the Policing Authority, which are set to be repurposed and strengthened under the planned reforms, will have "unfettered power".

This would "shackle" the Garda force for generations, said association president Supt Seamus Nolan.


The Irish Times last month reported Mr Harris had written a document for the joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice outlining serious concerns about plans to the reform the Garda.

The fact superintendents are now speaking out in the same way means senior management across the force is now voicing its opposition to the plans.

Some superintendents are also very concerned Gsoc was receiving complaints about Garda members and then sending those cases to superintendents to investigate. They say these investigations must be done in a timely fashion and according to strict protocols, yet Gsoc did not conduct its own investigations into Garda members in the same way.


The association's annual conference in Naas, Co Kildare, on Wednesday was also set to hear claims that some of the oversight agencies were making "reactionary" comments when allegations about Garda members came to light.

Garda officers believe oversight personnel should wait until investigations are completed before making any public remarks.

“It is interesting to see how many experts we have calling us to account, treating us as their kicking practice and those self same experts are ignoring their obligations to seek realistic timelines, resourcing and welfare issues facing the organisation over whom they are keeping their watchful eyes,” Supt Nolan said.

Minister for Justice Heather Humphreys is set to address the conference later on Wednesday.

Mr Harris is also due to deliver a speech and speak to the media.

The conference is set to hear claims from delegates that the Minister has dealt with the association in a “demeaning” manner by a claimed refusal to engage with it on resourcing and the reforms planned or already under way.

In his submission to the joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice, Mr Harris said reforms planned by the Government were “draconian” and marked by an “absence of clarity”.

He welcomed the creation of a new Garda board but said the lack of clarity about how it would overlap with the new Policing and Community Safety Authority risked "encroaching on the operational independence" of the office of Garda Commissioner.

He was also critical of the “disproportionate” new powers being given to Gsoc, which investigates allegations of wrongdoing against Garda members. The powers would be legally challenged by Garda members placed under investigation. That litigation was likely to prove successful on the basis “the very foundational principles of constitutional fairness” had been “transgressed”.

Mr Harris critiqued the Government’s Policing, Security and Community Safety Bill, having been invited to make a submission by the Oireachtas committee as part of the pre-legislative scrutiny process.

“As it is currently drafted, the scheme falls well short of our shared ambition for a transparent, accountable, trusted and effective policing service for the future,” he said of the Bill in his submission.

The Association of Garda Superintendents said the Bill would “literally shackle future generations of gardaí through a multiplicity of governance, purported oversight and intrusive regulation”.

The association also believes the manner of the changes planned mean there will be a presumption of guilt on the part of any Garda member against whom a complaint is made and who finds themselves under investigation.

Conor Lally

Conor Lally

Conor Lally is Security and Crime Editor of The Irish Times