Garda malpractice will continue until there is a minister for justice who will stand up to the “culture of cover-up” it has been claimed.
Sinn Féin justice spokesman Martin Kenny made the accusation in the Dáil as he demanded a full independent investigation into the cancellation by gardaí of thousands of 999 calls.
He said that An Garda Síochána cannot be trusted to investigate itself, adding that “every time there is corruption and malpractice” in the force the first response “is to cover-up”, followed by a further cover-up of the cover-up.
He was speaking during Dáil justice questions as he highlighted the thousands of emergency service calls cancelled by the Garda in 2019 and 2020 including a large number from domestic violence victims as well as calls dealing with burglaries and assaults.
He claimed that “from the beginning senior Garda officers were covering this issue up” as he insisted it was not appropriate for the Garda to investigate the matter.
Minister for Justice Heather Humphreys said that former justice minister Helen McEntee had asked the Policing Authority to oversee the review of the matter by the Garda and there had been "several engagements" since March.
Ms Humphreys said the Garda Commissioner gave the authority a “detailed account of these serious shortcomings and outlined what steps have been taken by Garda management to ensure it does not happen again” and she welcomed his apology over the issue.
‘Nothing to look at’
But Mr Kenny said it was clear the Policing Authority was “frustrated” because it was told at the outset that this was a technical issue and “there was nothing to look at”.
“From the beginning therefore, senior Garda officers were covering this issue up and trying to make little of it.”
The Sinn Féin spokesman said the matter was only reported to the authority once a journalist from The Sunday Times made it clear the story was going to be published.
“That is wrong and it stinks to high heaven and I think the Minister knows this,” he said.
Mr Kenny added that “every time there is corruption and malpractice, the first port of call is cover-up, which is more malpractice.
“There is then a cover up of the cover-up. GSoc (Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission) is then called in to cover up that cover-up, and that is the issue which must be dealt with.
He said there was an apparent consensus between the Minister’s department and senior Garda officers that “somehow or other the Garda should investigate itself”.
But he warned that until the Minister for Justice “stands up to the culture of cover-up in the Garda we are going to continue with this problem and continue to have these levels of malpractice”.
It was his understanding that in one instance thousands of calls were cancelled by one individual. “How was that one person able to continue doing that” he asked.
He said it would be “prudent” for the Minister to appoint an independent investigator and ensure that “not only do we have an apology and assurance that it is going to stop, but that somebody is held to account.
“The problem in this country is that nobody is ever held to account.”
Ms Humphreys said however that while she agreed with Mr Kenny’s frustration about the cancellation of 999 calls, she did not agree with some of his comments.
The Minister pointed out that the issue was initially identified within the Garda through its internal processes. An Garda wrote to her department in December last year about the matter and that a review was being conducted.
The Policing Authority was also notified as part of its appropriate oversight role, she said.