THE Garda watchdog is being called in to investigate allegations of corruption involving senior members of the force over the fixing of penalty points.
Justice Minister Alan Shatter has decided to call in the Garda Ombudsman Commission in the public interest.
The decision has been welcomed by the Garda authorities, who have pledged full co-operation.
Mr Shatter announced his decision this afternoon amid a withering attack on some members of the Dail Public Accounts Committee.
The minister claimed that a minority of committee members posed the risk of bringing it into disrepute, undermining its role and its credibility, and said their comments were particularly disturbing.
He accused those members of having a tendency to prejudge issues under consideration by the committee.
The minister’s move seems likely to end the impasse between the committee and Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan over the possible appearance of one of the whistleblowers, Maurice McCabe, who is a serving member of the force, before the PAC on Thursday.
Mr Shatter said the reality was that there were legal and practical constraints on the ability of the PAC to determine the veracity of claims made in relation to individual penalty point cases.
The two whistleblowers made a series of allegations about senior garda officers after a random study of references to penalty point terminations on the force’s Pulse computer system.
Mr Shatter said many of the allegations had been investigated by Assistant Garda Commissioner John O’Mahony and had been dealt with in his report.
“While I am aware of that some are concerned that the investigation was not independent of An Garda Siochana, I am not aware of the persons making those allegations putting forward any substantive evidence, which would call into question Assistant Commissioner O’Mahony’s findings, despite repeated requests to do so.
“Instead, the original assertions are merely repeated and further cases are brought to attention in circumstances where the people making the allegations could not have full knowledge of the facts.
“I have also previously expressed concerns about how files containing confidential information about individual private citizens appear to have been disseminated to others”, Mr Shatter added.
A similar point was made last week by Mr Callinan, who described the leaking of confidential details of individual cases as “disgusting”.
Mr Shatter also said he intended to draft proposals to review the ombudsman legislation to allow members of the force to make complaints directly to the Ombudsman Commission.
The garda Commissioner speaking this evening welcomed the Minister's statement:
"I have been in dialogue with the Minister for Justice, Equality & Defence on this matter over the last number of days and, to that end, I look forward to co-operating fully with the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission in its examination of these matters.
"It is critical that the Fixed Charge Penalty Notice System retains the support of the public so that it continues to play an important role in improving road safety.
"As I told the Public Accounts Committee, An Garda Síochána is committed to engaging with all its employees and any member of An Garda Síochána who wishes to report wrong-doing within the organisation will be fully supported and afforded every protection. In that regard, I also look forward to the inclusion of An Garda Síochána under the Protected Disclosures Bill 2013.
"I want to once again state that An Garda Síochána remains as committed as ever to full accountability to the Oireachtas and the citizens of this country."
Tom Brady Security Editor