Recent controversies that have “rocked” An Garda Síochána have undermined public confidence in the justice system that can only be restored by the severance of politics from the force, the largest Garda staff association has said.
The Garda Representative Association (GRA), which represents more than 11,000 rank-and-file gardaí in a 13,000-strong force, said the Garda needed “fundamental renewal and reform”. General secretary PJ Stone called for the Garda to be freed from “the shackles of direct political interference”.
Speaking ahead of the opening of the GRA’s annual conference in Killarney, Co Kerry, this evening, Mr Stone said one area in need of urgent reform and which had the capacity to reinvigorate gardaí was an overhaul of the promotions procedures.
"Often the most natural leaders are overlooked in favour of those who have social or family connections to the political class. A newly-restructured selection and promotion process will produce a revitalised force whose members will rediscover their conviction and confidence and reproduce this in their daily work."
He also insisted many of his members had tried to raise some of the contentious matters that had recently come to light, such as the recording of telephone calls in and out of Garda stations, but had been ignored.
While interim Garda commissioner Noirín O’Sullivan is due to address delegates, Minister for Justice Alan Shatter has not been invited for the second consecutive year.
The recent policing scandals and Garda oversight look set to dominate the three-day conference. Delegates are due to discuss a number of motions about the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC), coming at a time when relations between the commission and the Garda force are at an all-time low.
Delegates from the Dublin Metropolitan Region (DMR) South Central division are calling on conference to debate the impact of GSOC inquiries on the effectiveness and morale of rank-and-file gardaí.
They also want to open a debate on a report issued by GSOC which included criticisms of the Garda's handling of a student protest in Dublin in November 2010 when sections of protesters were struck by gardaí with batons.
The same delegates are also calling on conference to demand the publication of a “charter of fairness” that would govern the relationship between GSOC, the GRA and the Garda commissioner.
Delegates from the Donegal division and from Carlow-Kilkenny have tabled a motion seeking that the cost of inquiries by gardaí into other members of the force on behalf of GSOC should come from the commission’s budget rather than that of the Garda.
Delegates from DMR South Central and those from the DMR East Division are calling for annual statistics to be published outlining the number of assaults on gardaí.
Garda delegates from the Tipperary division and the Carlow-Kilkenny division are pushing for ongoing Garda recruitment each year to a level that replaces retirees.
The GRA’S central executive has tabled a motion for a debate on the use by gardaí of their driving licences when working. There are concerns that road infringements while working in emergency situations will result in penalty points applying to licences