Varadkar: GRA should show evidence senior officers pressured junior staff

Taoiseach calls for ‘individual accountability’ for anyone who falsified breath tests

 An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Minister for Public Expenditure Paschal Donohoe available. Photograph Nick Bradshaw

An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Minister for Public Expenditure Paschal Donohoe available. Photograph Nick Bradshaw

 

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said the Garda Representative Association (GRA) should bring forward evidence to back up its claim that senior officers pressured junior staff to inflate alcohol breath tests.

The GRA has claimed senior gardaí, and not its rank and file members, were to blame for the falsification of almost 1½ million breath tests on the force’s official enforcement records.

“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,” Mr Varadkar said on Monday.

Last week the GRA clashed with Assistant Commissioner Michael O’Sullivan, author of the recently published Garda report on the breath tests.

The GRA said senior officers used the inflated level of testing to try and secure promotion.

But Assistant Commissioner O’Sullivan said senior officers did not gain from the fact the levels of testing in their areas of responsibility were inflated. This was as much as 400 per cent in some places.

When he spoke to reporters at Government Buildings, Mr Varadkar was asked about Fianna Fail justice spokesman Jim O’Callaghan’s claim that a full investigation of all the inflated breath tests was not possible and would be a waste of Garda resources.

“There can be a difference between prosecution and individual accountability. I don’t think anyone has advocated that gardaí be prosecuted but being held accountable is a different thing entirely,” he said.

“I think it is important that there is individual accountability for anyone who falsified breath tests. I think it’s been suggested by one of the Fianna Fail spokespeople that the O’Sullivan report was based on a random set of samples.

“That actually is not correct. It was a focused investigation and that does show how individuals could be identified.”

Meanwhile, Mr Varadkar said he was disappointed that former Garda ombudsman Conor Brady had resigned from the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland.

Mr Brady said he was protesting at what he characterised as the lack of political interest in or support for the Commission’s work.

“Obviously disappointed that he’s stepped down from the Commission. The Commission has only been established recently,” Mr Varadkar said.

He insisted the Government was “very committed to driving through Garda reform”. It looked forward to recommendations coming from the Commission, which it would then proceed to implement.

“Obviously respect the decision he’s made, but disappointed that he has.”