The Dáil’s public spending watchdog is to contact the Department of Justice to raise what one member described as “serious concerns” over the resourcing of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (Gsoc) and the length of time it is taking to deal with cases. It comes after Gsoc wrote to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) to update it on its investigation into alleged historic financial irregularities at the Garda training college in Templemore.
Gsoc chairman Rory MacCabe SC told the committee that one issue raised during the investigation has been resourcing. He wrote: “At risk of my rehearsing the broken record that I and my predecessors have in the past articulated to your members – be aware that Gsoc continues to experience serious challenges with respect to resourcing, which has and continues to have a significant impact our capacity to deal with an ever-increasing caseload and on the duration of investigations”.
Questions have been raised about the length of time Gsoc investigations take in the wake of last week’s riots in Dublin. There have been calls from Garda representative groups to reduce the impact of such investigations on their members, with suggestions that some gardaí had been unwilling to use force against rioters last week due to a fear of being investigated by Gsoc.
In recent days Gsoc said it was “concerned at the suggestion” the “independent oversight of policing by Gsoc may have a role in hindering” the Garda’s “ability to effectively and appropriately address public order incidents”. This was “categorically not the case” as it did not discipline, suspend or prosecute gardaí.
Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy told Thursday’s PAC meeting that oversight bodies could not do their job if they were challenged by not having enough resources. She said it was not unusual for investigations to take five or six years.
Committee chairman Sinn Féin TD Brian Stanley said Garda representative bodies have been saying in recent days that it can take years for Gsoc investigations into individual gardaí. He said Gsoc’s letter outlined the resourcing issue in “very stark terms”.
Mr Stanley suggested Gsoc should be invited to a future PAC meeting alongside either the Department of Justice or An Garda Síochána.
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