Whistle-blower controversy ‘most damaging’ in Garda history

AGSI delegate warns conference morale in force at a dangerously low level

The controversy over Garda whistle-blowers has caused more damage to An Garda Síochána than any other controversy in the history of the force, a delegate told today's second day of the AGSI annual conference in Killarney.

Tony Lavery from Mayo called on delegates to support a motion from Donegal seeking to have a confidential reporting charter reviewed and revised to offer better protection to genuine whistleblowers but he warned that the controversy had done huge damage to morale in the force.

“If we don’t have a charter that people have confidence in, then we ‘re wasting our time having it in the first place - the whistle blowing controversy and how it has emerged as done more damage to An Garda Síochána than anything since the foundation of the force,” said Mr Lavery.

“I haven’t come here to criticise whistle blowing or whistle-blowers but what am I doing here is speaking out on behalf of the ordinary members of this association and members that we supervise and look to use for guidance and leadership.


“Many of the members I supervise have between five and 15 years service - they are bemused and bewildered at what’s taken place within and to An Garda Síochána - they are sick to the teeth of all the negative publicity that has emerged in the past number of months which has been constant.”

Mr Lavery said that “all this negative publicity has done nothing other than drive already depleted morale into the ground and low morale in a police force is a very dangerous things” before criticising politicians and certain sections of the media for their reporting of the controversy.

“Many members have been very disturbed at the way the force has been turned into a political football for the purpose of cheap points scoring- we all know why that was - because there are local elections coming up next month,” he said.

“The manner in which certain sections of the media have turned issues into enormous mountains and put their own slant on it and then when they perceive that they have a stick to beat the organisation with, they proceeded to beat it into the ground but let me tell you, they failed.”

Mr Lavery disputed suggestions that An Garda Síochána was a corrupt force and re-iterated his belief that the force was among the finest in the world as he paid tribute to those members of the force who had paid a huge price for facing down criminality and terrorism.

“Read my lips, An Garda Síochána is still one of the finest police forces in the world and I’ll tell you why - we are still routinely and mainly an unarmed police force and the way we recruit members to our organisation hasn’t changed much down through the years.

“We come from the community and therefore we reflect the community that we come for and so if we say An Garda Síochána is corrupt, then society as a whole is corrupt and I don’t agree with that,” said Mr Lavery.

“The most important thing of all is that the vast majority of members, who make up the organisation that is An Garda Síochána, are honourable, upstanding and decent men and women who do their job to the best of their ability.

“They are people who have done nothing wrong, people who on a daily basis face down serious criminality in this state, who have faced down the threat of terrorism and as we all know, it hasn’t gone away.

“Many of these members have suffered injury and serious injury in upholding their duties and we here in this conference room will never forget the members who have paid the ultimate price in upholding law and order in this state.

“We can either lie down and we can lick our wounds, or we can rise up and stand up and be proud to be members of An Garda Síochána and be proud to be members of what is one of the finest police forces in the world.”

Barry Roche

Barry Roche

Barry Roche is Southern Correspondent of The Irish Times