Public wants Garda reform to move forward, says policing commission chairwoman

Kathleen O’Toole says commission got numerous complaints but also compliments about force

 Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland chairwoman Kathleen O’Toole said common themes at meetings included demands for “more visibility, more boots on the ground, and more resources”. Photograph Nick Bradshaw

Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland chairwoman Kathleen O’Toole said common themes at meetings included demands for “more visibility, more boots on the ground, and more resources”. Photograph Nick Bradshaw

 

The many controversies surrounding the Garda Síochána have not shaken the public’s belief in its essential role, according to the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland chairwoman Kathleen O’Toole.

“We have received numerous complaints, but just as many compliments about the work of the gardaí,” Ms O’Toole said at a public consultation in Galway on Thursday night.

“People are very frustrated, it may be that public confidence has been shaken but people also want to move forward,” Ms O’Toole said.

She noted that serving, former and retired gardaí are among those who have engaged with the commission, which was set up by former minister for justice Frances Fitzgerald last May to examine the future of An Garda Síochána.

The commission has encouraged “one to one” discussions at its consultation meetings, believing that this allows people to express views more freely. This format was adopted at the two-hour Galway session, held in the Portershed, where five commission members met local politicians and members of the public.

Common themes

Earlier, commission members met Chief Supt Tom Curley, and members of the force in Salthill and in An Spidéal.

Ms O’Toole said that common themes at meetings so far included demands for “more visibility, more boots on the ground, and more resources”.

Drugs, public order issues and rural crime were also issues identified, with the city and county highlighting different needs.

A more “joined up approach” to tackling such issues as the link between addiction and crime, and the “intersection between public health and public safety” was also a theme, she said.

Statistics presented by Co Galway’s joint policing committee last autumn reported a 30 per cent rise in burglaries, a 73 per cent rise in road incidents causing serious injury and an 80 per cent rise in speeding offences.

‘Absorbing everything’

The Seattle police chief, who is former head of the Garda Inspectorate and served on the Patten Commission, said she and colleagues were “absorbing everything”.

Written submissions are being accepted until the end of the month, she said. “We are keeping an open mind,” she emphasised.

The commission had warned the Government last autumn that it would be making a “serious mistake” if it appointed a new Garda commissioner without having clarity as to the role of the post.

The commission is due to submit its report, which is expected to include an implementation plan, by September.

Ms O’Toole, who described herself as an “eternal optimist”, anticipated this deadline would be met.

It is hosting four meetings next week, with three in Dublin – at Wood Quay, in Tallaght and Blanchardstown – and one in Waterford.