Slow but steady increase in number of gardaí agreeing to sign ethics code

About 70 per cent have signed including all senior officers

Josephine Feehily, chairwoman of the Policing Authority, said there are some areas of the country where 100 per cent of gardaí have signed up to the code of conduct and some where the figure is far less. File photograph: Alan Betson

Josephine Feehily, chairwoman of the Policing Authority, said there are some areas of the country where 100 per cent of gardaí have signed up to the code of conduct and some where the figure is far less. File photograph: Alan Betson

 

About 30 per cent of gardaí have not yet signed up to the force’s code of ethics which was introduced two years ago following a series of Garda scandals.

Rank and file members have been slow to sign the code over concerns it could lead to them being unfairly disciplined.

The latest figure does represent some progress, with 70 per cent of gardaí now signed up compared to only 40 per cent last summer.

Policing Authority Chairwoman Josephine Feehily told The Irish Times she now believes the number has reached “critical mass” and that the rest of the force will soon sign up.

“It’s just a matter of time and a bit of application and we’ll get there.”

Most of those who have signed did so voluntarily, she said. Others required “a little bit of encouragement”.

The code which details various duties expected of gardaí including upholding the law, honesty and integrity, respect, privacy, transparency and “speaking up” about wrongdoing. It was drawn up by the Policing Authority in 2017, twelve years after it was mandated for in legislation.

Ms Feehily said there are some areas of the country where 100 per cent of gardaí have signed up and some where the figure is far less. She said all senior gardaí from Superintendents and above have signed.

Frustrated with the slow progress, the Policing Authority and the Garda Commissioner have said that signing the code will be a prerequisite for gardaí seeking promotion.

Gardaí wishing to apply for specialist roles, such as in the Armed Response Units, will also have to sign, Ms Feehily said yesterday. Those seeking special assignment will also be required to sign.

New garda recruits are compelled to sign at the time of their graduation.

The Garda Representative Association (GRA) which represents some 12,000 rank and file gardaí said last year its members should not be bound by the code until they receive “adequate training” in its implementation.

Large numbers of individual gardaí have refused to sign because they feel it may open them up to disciplinary measures which go beyond the Garda Disciplinary Code.

In an address to the Dublin City Joint Policing Committee yesterday, Ms Feehily said gardaí will continued to be disciplined for breaches of garda regulations which are represented by the code, rather than face punishment for breaching the code itself.

She said the authority “has taken great steps to dispel” the idea of perceived link between the code and disciplinary proceedings.

The language in the code is “quite light” and many commentators believe the authority “wimped out” by not putting in a stronger connection to disciplinary procedures, Ms Feehily said.

The chairwoman said it is “not ideal” that an outside body like the Policing Authority had to impose the code. However the code was on the Statute Book for a decade before the Policing Authority was established and the Government “in its wisdom” decided not to progress the issue until then.