Conor Brady’s resignation a surprise to Garda reform group
Former ‘Irish Times’ editor says lack of Government support for commission was a factor
Conor Brady, Sir Peter Fahy, Dr Johnny Connolly, Kathleen O’Toole, Chairperson, Donncha O’Connell, Helen Ryan and Dr Eddie Molloy at the first meeting of the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw
No other members of the commission set up to lead reform of the Garda are expected to step down, following the surprise resignation of one of its most prominent members.
Former Garda ombudsman Conor Brady announced his resignation at the weekend from the Commission on the Future of Policing, which was established last March to carry out a “fundamental examination of all aspects of policing in this state”.
The commission was set up in response to the series of scandals which have beset the force in recent years, the most recent being the over-reporting of breath tests carried out by gardaí.
Mr Brady, a former editor of The Irish Times, said the primary reason he stepped down was so he would be free to write and comment freely on the issue of Garda reform, something he could not do while a member of the commission.
However, he said he was also concerned at the lack of support, particularly financial support, the body has received from the Government. He cited an apparent lack of public support for the commission from Government politicians.
“In the last week or 10 days since [former Garda commissioner] Nóirín O’Sullivan stepped down there has been a lot of talk from the politicians about planning the future and accelerating the pace of reform, and I saw hardly any reference at all to the role of the commission and I felt that didn’t auger very well for its purposes,” he said.
Mr Brady said his final decision was prompted in part by a two-page interview with Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan in a Sunday newspaper eight days ago in which he did not mention the commission.
A spokesman for the Minister said Mr Flanagan had mentioned the commission but this was lost in the editing process.
Mr Brady said it was over the days after the interview he came to his decision to step down but he was “coming to it anyway” due to other factors.
“I did feel there wasn’t sufficient support that I would like to have seen from the establishment. We had the greatest of difficulty getting a budget set up. We had very limited resources made available.
“For a job of this scale, given the timescale we had, it was not a very generous position,” he said, pointing out the body was assigned just two full-time staff.
Several members of the commission expressed surprise at Mr Brady’s decision and said they were not aware of his concerns.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said he was disappointed at Mr Brady’s decision. He said the Government was “very committed to driving through Garda reform”, and it looked forward to recommendations coming from the commission which it would then implement.
Separately, tensions have escalated between Garda management and rank-and-file members over where the blame lies for the falsification of 1.5 million breath tests.
The Garda Representative Association (GRA), which represents lower-ranked gardaí, has claimed senior and middle Garda management are to blame for the scandal.
According to RTÉ news, GRA general secretary Pat Ennis has specifically blamed members of the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI), who form the middle management of the force. “AGSI members instructed our members to inflate figures,” Mr Ennis told GRA members.
AGSI has rejected this claim and said it has written to the GRA about it.
Mr Varadkar called on the GRA to bring forward evidence to back up its claim that senior officers pressured staff to inflate alcohol breath tests.
“An allegation has been made by the GRA against other gardaí and I think any allegations that are made should always be backed up with evidence. I’m sure they will produce evidence if it exists,” the Taoiseach said.