An Garda Síochána – a crisis of trust
Sir, – John McGahern’s great novel The Dark is mainly set in a provincial Garda station. In it, he describes how the gardaí went out on bicycles to patrol the surrounding areas. The details of the patrols were then entered into the patrol book. Sometimes they never actually went on patrol but details were written in the book anyway. These entries were knownamong the guards as “patrols of the imagination”. It is interesting to see that this custom still exists under a different guise amongst the guards. – Yours, etc,
Dr NIALL WALSH,
Sir, – Let’s say that I am the manager of a factory that makes screwdrivers. I’m delighted that the production team has told me that they made one million units but I am puzzled when the sales team tells me that we have sold two million screwdrivers. This cannot be so I tell the teams to sort it out and let me have an explanation. One week later they produce a report which explains it all. The explanation does not matter; it was explained.
Now I am the superintendent of a busy Garda station. My monthly report shows that the station received 500 breath-testing nozzles from head office but my activity report claims that the station carried out 1,000 tests. I have lots of clever detectives working for me, so I ask for an investigation to reconcile the difference. Eighteen months later, the chief of detectives comes back to me. Sorry, but it’s a mystery. The best we can come up with is that there was cellular division in the storeroom and each kit became two. So I report the findings to HQ, and to my astonishment I hear back that the same thing was happening all over the country. The finest minds in the Garda investigated the mystery for nearly two years and could not get to the bottom of it.
Now I am an ordinary citizen, and the Garda management tells me to continue placing my faith in the investigative powers of the force. What am I to do? – Yours, etc,
Sir, – It would seem evident that the Garda Commissioner finds herself in the current predicament because of a failure to implement effective line-management within the organisation. It is one of the basic but most important responsibilities to give clear direction to employees, an absence of which leads to chaos and gives staff no channel through which they can contribute to reporting and resolving administrative issues. Systems failure may be the hook on which to hang the current troubles, a lack of line-management is the blunt instrument that hung the hook crookedly, and for that the Garda Commissioner does bear ultimate responsibility. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – The Garda statistics fiasco has gone on long enough. The people of Ireland don’t want to hear a statement from the Garda Commissioner that all efforts are being made to ensure that these situations will not occur again.
In any organisation where errors are detected, they are instantly corrected, particularly when they are of such a serious nature, so why has this situation lasted for years? Why was the situation kept from the Minister for Justice and the Policing Authority?
What needs to be explained clearly is why the statistics were in error or falsified. Were the gardaí who were being assigned to breath-test motorists simply taking the day off and filling in false reports? Were the station management filling in false figures to make themselves look good for promotion?
In terms of the erroneous summonses, is Garda promotion in part based on the number of summonses and is that why they were issued? Are the number of convictions relevant in terms of an individual garda’s promotion and could this be the reason people got convictions without getting penalty notices?
These are the types of rumours and speculation that are being talked about due to the lack of hard information and explanation. In order to stop this speculation and rumour, which is leading to enormous mistrust in An Garda Síochána, the Commissioner and Minister need to issue a statement saying who is responsible, what action is being taken against them, and the steps being taken to ensure it is not still happening and will not happen again.
Vague statements and spin will only lead to a deeper mistrust of the Garda by the Irish people. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – The recent Garda scandal harks back to a time in Irish society when regulation was non-existent and bad practices were pervasive. It is no coincidence that this has occurred in an area of society where the EU has no regulatory reach or audit function. We have much to be thankful for when it comes to the EU. It is a pity that it doesn’t do a better job of blowing its own trumpet. – Yours, etc,