Gardaí just want the facts to come out and end the constant innuendo
Another day, another inquiry into allegations involving gardaí. After years of unrelenting controversies covering a range of topics, the vast majority of the 12,900 members of the Garda force must be weary of seeing the headlines relating to their organisation dominated largely by alleged scandal and wrongdoing.
But despite coping with the inquiries and endless reports emerging from them, while also recovering from the impact of a recession that left the force deprived of the necessary resources and personnel, gardaí have scored a string of successes in tackling organised crime and terrorism and protecting the public.
A year ago, the force was under severe pressure to deal with the fallout from the deadly Kinahan-Hutch feud and reassure the public, particularly in Dublin's inner city areas, that they had not lost control of the streets.
But as the events of the past month have underlined, gardaí have regained the upper hand in dealing with the murderous thugs and drug traffickers while making massive seizures of drugs and significant firearm captures.
Ten murders have been officially listed as part of the feud, but overt and covert garda operations have prevented further gun attacks and saved the lives of more than 15 potential victims. Those successes, coupled with bringing the nationwide wave of burglaries under control, have restored public confidence in the force and boosted morale of members.
The attitude of many gardaí now to the latest commission of investigation, to be headed by Mr Justice Peter Charleton, is to welcome it as an opportunity for the facts to be fully established and analysed and to put an end to the constant release of allegations and innuendo.
Those allegations focus on a very small percentage of Garda personnel, mainly from the senior layers of management, and the general view within the organisation seems to be that it is now time to draw a line under the claims, determine the truth and pin the blame on whoever or wherever it is deemed appropriate by the highly distinguished judge.
Mr Justice Charleton has first-hand knowledge of the inner workings of the Garda force, particularly during his time as the lead counsel for the Morris Tribunal that delved into alleged corruption by some gardaí in the Donegal division. He is held in high regard among his peers and is known for his ability to probe into complex and contradictory issues.
Those at the centre of the allegations, including Garda Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan and her predecessor Martin Callinan, appear ready to defend themselves robustly against any claims levelled against them. The commission will give them an opportunity to hear the full extent of the accusations, including those made by former Garda press officer Supt David Taylor, who held a key position at Garda headquarters in the Phoenix Park during much of the controversy surrounding Sergeant Maurice McCabe.
Apart from becoming a vital witness in the investigation as a result of his claims about an orchestrated campaign to brief the media negatively against Sgt McCabe, the superintendent is also anxiously awaiting the outcome of a Garda file prepared for the DPP arising out of a separate inquiry into allegations of media leaks.
Currently suspended on partial pay, Supt Taylor enjoys the sympathy of many colleagues for what they perceive as a heavy-handed approach to his case, resulting in his arrest and detention in a garda station almost two years ago, and he still does not know whether he is to face criminal charges.
His decision to make a statement under the Protected Disclosures Act last September was a surprise to most gardaí and media.
Mr Justice Charleton's examination of all records relating to the mobile telephones used by Supt Taylor will put the spotlight on the relationship between gardaí and the media.
The judge will try to establish whether communications between journalists and the officer appointed to act as the spokesman for the force amount to being part of an orchestrated campaign, with the strings being pulled by Ms O'Sullivan or Mr Callinan, or are viewed simply as the actions of a man whose job is to handle media queries.
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