The Dáil has approved the nomination to the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSoc) of former chief commissioner of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Emily Logan and Garda Inspectorate member and former PSNI detective chief superintendent Hugh Hume, with the opposition of just one TD.
Their appointments follow the retirement of former members Dr Kieran FitzGerald and Patrick Sullivan and will last for three-and-a-half years or until legislation is enacted to restructure the ombudsman commission.
Solidarity TD Mick Barry opposed the nomination of Mr Hume, who also served as head of the PSNI's intelligence and analysis service. He said it was "not on the basis on any personal aspersion or the need to be impartial and dispassionate" but "on the need to be seen to be impartial and dispassionate".
Mr Barry said Mr Hume served directly under Garda Commissioner Drew Harris in the PSNI from 2014 to 2017.
"He should not be placed in a position where he has to preside over an organisation tasked with deciding whether to launch a criminal investigation into Commissioner Harris's officers" in the case of the shooting of George Nkencho or any other incident.
GSoc is investigating the shooting dead of Mr Nkencho by the Garda Armed Support Unit in the front garden of his family home in Clonee, Dublin in December after a dispute during which he was armed with a knife.
Mr Barry said “Ireland is not immune to the phenomenon of the over-policing of minority communities”.
He added that “an organisation which initiates sensitive investigations in minority communities should have strong representation built into its structures for those communities. I question GSoc’s suitability to conduct such investigations given such lack of strong representation.”
The Cork North-Central TD said statements were only taken on Wednesday from Nkencho family members “four full weeks after the shooting”.
He said “no doubt there are particular reasons for this delay but minority community representation within the structures of GSoc would have been able to make it very clear very early that such delays only serve to increase suspicion and doubt over GSoc’s bonafides within that community”.
Independent appointment process
Minister of State for Justice James Browne said it was “important to note that these appointments came through an independent Public Appointments Service process”.
He said that “any fatal shooting is deeply distressing” but all were “fully and independently investigated” by GSoc, which is chaired by Ms Justice Mary Ellen Ring.
He added that “gardaí are investigating the incidents at Hartstown Shopping Centre and the events leading up to the shooting.
“There are well-established protocols in place between Gsoc and the gardaí to allow these parallel with the separate investigations to take place.”
Legislation will be introduced to restructure GSoc based on the recommendations of the Commission on the Future of Policing.
Sinn Féin TD Pa Daly said many GSoc investigations "are outsourced back to An Garda Síochána because of concerns about a lack of resources", along with a duplication of roles and responsibility in the commission and in the Garda Inspectorate.
He said there were problems with the training of investigators, with only a few investigators are actually accredited while GSoc’s powers were insufficient to cover the necessary investigative work.
The gardaí do their utmost “but there will always be issues when investigating their own colleagues”.
The Kerry TD said GSoc had to be able to look into historical problems and complaints against An Garda Síochána, including retired investigating officers.
He pointed to the Kerry babies case which was a “stark reminder of the wrongs of the past” and said it should have been called the “gardaí in Kerry case”, reflecting a “police service that lacked accountability in the 1980s”.
Labour's Brendan Howlin said the concerns of the many gardaí dissatisfied with the operation of GSoc had to be taken into account in a balanced way "so we get a proper oversight body" that everyone has complete confidence in.