Monitoring Of Garda Siochana

 

Sir, - I refer to your report (November 23rd) regarding the Labour Party's proposals that the key policing monitoring institutions recommended by the Patten report should also be applied to the Garda Siochana, and specifically the statement in that report by Security Editor, Jim Cusack, that "there was no immediate reaction from the other political parties" to these proposals.

As chairman of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice, Equality and Law Reform, I issued a statement to your newsdesk, within an hour of the Labour Party officially launching its proposals. This statement addressed a number of points. I'm disappointed that Mr Cusack did not take note of this response.

In the circumstances, I wish to reiterate the points made in my statement. Proposals will shortly be brought to Government to improve accountability within the Garda Siochana. Labour's proposal to appoint a garda ombudsman show that its proposed policy for improving Garda efficiency and accountability is largely drawn from the report issued by the Patten Commission on reform of the RUC in Northern Ireland.

Government has already acknowledged the perceived shortcomings of the present garda complaints system and that there is a level of dissatisfaction with its operation. Proposals will soon be brought to Government for amendment of the Garda Siochana Complaints Act 1986 on foot of the review of its operation which is nearing completion. The proposals will enhance the Board's current investigative role into complaints against members of the force.

Labour proposals for the appointment of a garda ombudsman suggests the adoption in this jurisdiction of a model similar to that now prevailing in Northern Ireland. The situation in Northern Ireland in relation to policing differs substantially from the position which has obtained in this jurisdiction. There were particular concerns in the North about policing and there was a serious lack of confidence in the police at least among some sections of the community. I am not satisfied that it would be appropriate or beneficial in this jurisdiction to follow the very particular confidence-building measures found necessary in Northern Ireland. I am confident that Government proposals that will be brought forward to enhance the operation of the Garda Complaints Board will address effectively the concerns which have been expressed in this area.

It is particularly surprising that Labour's proposal that all gardai be trained in the fundamental principles of human rights ignores the fact that all student and probationer gardai currently receive instruction in the area of race relations, and that the social studies element of their two year training course specifically covers instruction in human rights conferred by the Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights. - Yours, etc.,

Sean Ardagh, TD, Chairman, Joint Oireachtas Committee for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Leinster House, Dublin 2.