Government will not back Bill giving Policing Authority more powers

FF’s Jim O’Callaghan says Bill is needed to help restore public confidence in Garda

Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan: said the Bill conflicts with the work of the Commission on the Future of Policing. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan: said the Bill conflicts with the work of the Commission on the Future of Policing. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

 

The Government is to reject proposals to give the Policing Authority the power to sack individual gardaí and have greater oversight of the Garda Commissioner.

Fianna Fáil has tabled legislation seeking a series of additional powers for the Garda watchdog and to place an obligation on the Garda Commissioner to inform the authority of all internal audits.

The Bill by Fianna Fáil spokesman on justice Jim O’Callaghan is in response to the exaggeration of breath tests by gardaí over a seven-year period.

It has the support of Sinn Féin, meaning it is likely to pass without Government support.

Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan told The Irish Times he had discussed the legislation with the Attorney General, who said it raised a number of complex issues.

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The Minister was advised it could result in a shift of power from his office and take responsibility away from Garda management.

Resources issues

He said it would create a number of resources issues for the Policing Authority. It also conflicts with the work of the Commission on the Future of Policing and seeks to “cut off” their research, Mr Flanagan said. “I cannot accept the Bill as it has multiple issues and flaws.”

The Bill would give the authority the power to dismiss any member of the force if it believed their conduct undermined public confidence in An Garda Síochána. The member would be given an opportunity to respond and defend themselves.

If the watchdog remained of the opinion dismissal is warranted, it would be allowed to seek a member’s removal. However, the authority would not be allowed to intervene in the internal disciplinary process within the force.

There were also measures to allow the authority enter, inspect and review any Garda station or premises without prior notification.

Major audit

Mr O’Callaghan said there would also be an obligation on the Garda Commissioner to inform the authority if any major audit was underway.

“The reason for that is the Policing Authority had not been informed of the audit into the breath test issue until it became public through the media,” he said.

“This is not exclusively in response to the breath issue but to wider concerns about public confidence in An Garda Síochána.”

Sinn Féin’s justice spokesman Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire confirmed his party would back the Bill.

Mr Flanagan said he had an obligation to progress legislation that would be effective and not to pass a Bill that would have a series of unintended implications. The Minister also urged the two opposition parties to engage with the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland.