The Irish Times view on the Garda anti-corruption unit: a new departure

The number of personnel on suspension is now running at double the rate before Garda Commissioner Drew Harris was appointed almost three years ago

Chief Superintendent Jo O’Leary, head of the newly-established Garda Anti-Corruption Unit, at the launch of the unit and the introduction of associated policies at Kevin Street Garda station last week. Photograph: Alan Betson

Chief Superintendent Jo O’Leary, head of the newly-established Garda Anti-Corruption Unit, at the launch of the unit and the introduction of associated policies at Kevin Street Garda station last week. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

The Garda’s new Anti-Corruption Bureau will seek out corruption within the force and investigate when suspicions are reported to it. The proactive approach is a relatively new departure for the organisation, which has often been on the back foot in addressing allegations of wrongdoing.

Chief Supt Johanna O’Leary, who leads the new bureau, and Assistant Commissioner Pat Clavin, who is in charge of governance in the force, moved to temper any sensationalism around the bureau’s launch. They expect the number of cases it deals with may be modest. They say the decision to begin actively pursuing corruption with a new unit should not be seen as a sign corruption is endemic within the Garda. There are 74 Garda members suspended at present as investigations into allegations against them are investigated, from minor to serious, and only some of these are corruption inquiries. This number must be seen in the context of a Garda force now numbering 18,000 personnel.

However, the number of personnel on suspension is now running at double the rate before Garda Commissioner Drew Harris was appointed almost three years ago. That number will likely climb higher now that a dedicated unit will be seeking out corruption. And though the number of cases is not expected to be voluminous, it is important that corruption is found and investigated. It is also crucial that any rogue Garda members should feel the threat of being caught is real.

One of the bureau’s first priorities is the investigation of any Garda member using their position for sexual gain. Another priority is the introduction of random drug-testing. The Garda staff associations want, and deserve, more consultation on the plan but they broadly support it. There are fears some gardaí are taking drugs recreationally, resulting in their vulnerability to coercion by organised criminals. Clavin said he was concerned at the level of drug-taking within wider society. And as Garda members were drawn from across society, he believed some drug testing was sensible in the Garda. That’s a solid starting point.

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