Action on exaggeration of Garda breath test figures ‘to follow report’
Donohoe, Naughten and Halligan indicate Government to await independent review
Three Ministers have stated the Policing Authority examination of the falsification of Garda breath test figures and the wrongful conviction of 14,500 people for motoring offences would decide their next course of action regarding the affair. File photograph: John Giles/PA Wire
Government Ministers have stressed the required action will be taken when an independent report on the exaggeration of breath test figures by gardaí is published.
In a significant strengthening of language, three Ministers stated the Policing Authority examination of the falsification of Garda breath test figures and the wrongful conviction of 14,500 people for motoring offences would decide their next course of action.
Two internal audits into the controversies were published on Wednesday by the Garda. However, there is growing concern this is not the full extent of the problem.
The internal Garda report found breath test figures on the Garda Pulse system had been exaggerated by 1.45 million over a seven-year period.
Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe, Minister for Communications Denis Naughten and Minister of State at the Department of Jobs John Halligan all indicated the Government would await the findings of the independent review before deciding how to act.
Mr Halligan of the Independent Alliance said the findings of that review would result in the Government making a decision that “we think is right for the gardaí and for the good of the country”.
He said: “Let’s see the commission, let’s see the results and what happens over the next couple of months, and I think this Government will do what’s right for the people of Ireland. ”
He said there is no politician who would be comfortable with what has happened and insisted the Government “need to deal with it”.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has maintained Garda Commissioner Noirín O’Sullivan retains the Government’s confidence. However, senior Government figures have said there is growing concern about what may emerge from the Policing Authority report.
Meanwhile, Garda unions have claimed gardaí felt pressurised by their superiors to inflate breath test numbers.
The internal Garda report on the controversy released this week includes submissions from the Garda Representative Association (GRA) and the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (Agsi), which believe fault for the falsification of data lies with senior management.
Agsi said there was a requirement from managers to show increases in detections month-on-month, year-on-year. This was used to improve their promotion profile.
It said rank-and-file members feared they would face repercussions including redeployment from roles if they did not reach targets set.
The GRA, meanwhile, stated there was an unhealthy enthusiasm to provide statistics to support management’s success.
It said a number of management and supervision practices are responsible for creating such a public debacle and controversy.
Neither the GRA nor Agsi has made any substantive comment on the two reports published on Wednesday.
Agsi has said it would wait until the reports being compiled by consultants Crowe Horwath for the Policing Authority were available before it commented.
Both Agsi and the GRA are due to hold central executive meetings in Dublin and the contents of the reports are due to be discussed at those meetings.
Members of the associations who spoke to The Irish Times said there was concern at suggestions individual Garda members be identified and sanctioned over the inflating of breath tests.
Both associations were expected to formulate their policies opposing any series of disciplinary actions against members on the basis it was senior officers who pressured their members to meet targets for the number of tests carried out.