Garda review to be most ambitious since founding of State

Representative groups question why no former gardaí are on review commission

Kathleen O’Toole,  the chief of police in Seattle,  is to chair the 12-person commission which will conduct a root-and-branch review of An Garda Síochána.  Photograph: Matt Kavanagh

Kathleen O’Toole, the chief of police in Seattle, is to chair the 12-person commission which will conduct a root-and-branch review of An Garda Síochána. Photograph: Matt Kavanagh

 

An independent root-and-branch review of An Garda Síochána will not issue a final report for 16 months but may provide a series of rolling recommendations to the Government.

Kathleen O’Toole, the chief of police in Seattle who is to chair the 12-person commission, said it would be the most ambitious review of Irish policing since the foundation of the State.

Tánaiste and Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald received approval from the Cabinet on Tuesday on the scope of the inquiry into the structures of the force and its membership.

The commission will examine whether the Garda should retain the responsibility for community safety, State security and immigration or whether separate bodies should be established.

It will investigate management and supervisory structures, recruitment and training of members and the culture and ethos of the force. The members will also assess breaches of discipline, how complaints against the police are adjudicated and the oversight of An Garda Síochána.

Among those participating in the review are former Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission member and former editor of The Irish Times Conor Brady, Dublin Rape Crisis Centre chief executive Noeline Blackwell and several academics.

Rank-and-file members

However, the commission’s membership has been criticised by members of the force, with the Garda Representative Association claiming the opinions of rank-and-file members were being ignored.

Antoinette Cunningham, president of the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors, also questioned why no serving or retired gardaí were participating.

Ms O’Toole said she hoped to be allowed to bring forward immediate proposals for reform and make recommendations as deemed necessary for implementation in the short term.

Ms O’Toole’s start date is unknown but it is expected she will occupy the role on a full-time basis.

Ms Fitzgerald said the commission would seek to unearth bad practices in the Garda and find a method to resolving any such difficulties. Its work should not prevent or block the ongoing work of change to An Garda Síochána, she added.

“The current reform must continue relentlessly,” Ms Fitzgerald said.

“It is clear from recent events that systemic issues which have emerged require the establishment of this expert group on policing to report in a timely way on the further changes now necessary to meet the requirements of a modern police force.”

Broad terms of reference

The Independent Alliance and Fianna Fáil welcomed the commission and the broad terms of reference for the inquiry.

Meanwhile, Fianna Fáil said it would seek to remove Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan from office within six months if elected to government. The party’s finance spokesman Michael McGrath said such a move would be a priority for his party if it takes office.

The Cabinet met yesterday to discuss the proposed commission but there was no discussion about the future of Ms O’Sullivan. A Government spokesman said she retained the full confidence of the Government.

A spokeswoman for the Independent Alliance denied comments made by Minister of State John Halligan were representative of the grouping.

Mr Halligan had said he could not see how Ms O’Sullivan could continue in her role in light of a number of garda controversies. The spokeswoman said Mr Halligan was expressing his own opinion, and not that of the group.

The Public Accounts Committee will meet on Thursday to discuss how it intends to examine claims of financial irregularities at Templemore garda college.