Taoiseach says senior gardaí not above the law over fake breath tests

Leo Varadkar says senior gardaí should face sanction if found to have encouraged rank and file to create fake breath tests

Senior gardaí should face disciplinary action if they are found to have encouraged rank and file members to create 1.5 million fake breath tests, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said on Friday.

Speaking at the end of two-day Fine Gael meeting in Co Tipperary, Mr Varadkar said he believed individual gardaí should face sanction if found to have engaged in the practice.

The Garda Representative Association has rejected the findings of a report by Assistant Commissioner Michael O'Sullivan that the fake breath tests were created by deliberate inflation of tests and poor data management by rank and file gardaí.

Mr O’Sullivan’s report absolved senior Garda officers of anything deliberately untoward, saying their focus was to catch drink drivers.

Last night Garda Representative Association spokesman John O’Keeffe said: “GRA members did not falsify figures. [They] were told to elevate figures by middle and senior management, and those figures were elevated thus.”

Mr Varadkar claimed any disciplinary action arising out of the report should not be focused on rank and file gardaí but should include those “at management level who were demanding this of people who report to them”.

The Taoiseach also criticised the GRA for their comments on the breath test controversy.

“It was disappointing to see them reject the findings of an internal Garda report on the scale of the controversy”, Mr Varadkar said.

“If I was a garda today, I would not be happy with the approach the GRA has taken on this.”

In its statement on Thursday, the GRA said: “No one can categorically say that it was our members falsifying data – we have numerous examples of supervisors and managers having input into this system.”

The GRA added it was clear from a report into the inflated breath test data by Assistant Commissioner O’Sullivan that senior Garda management “do not wish to be blamed” for the debacle.

“But it is entirely of their own making,” the GRA said. “Their obsession with data collection, for no clear and distinct purpose, while our members were issued with endless directives at a time of under-resourcing, no training, increased workloads and an unclear system of collation was a policy of failure.

“Our members will not be scapegoated for ill-considered policies - and this should be the focus of political attention.

"If the people of Ireland have been let down; then it is in the management and deployment of scant resources to appease the need for purposeless data by those in power."

Instead, the GRA blamed senior Garda management for the fake tests which it said wanted to collect “useless data” to improve their chances of promotion.

“This data was utilised as a crude measure of productivity - and fed into a culture of competition among senior ranks to improve their promotion chances,” the GRA said.