Sunday 4 December 2016

GRA says new body is needed to oversee watchdog

Published 22/06/2015 | 02:30

PJ Stone
PJ Stone

The rift between rank and file gardaí and their ombudsman has deepened further with a call by officers for an oversight body to investigate the watchdog.

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The gardaí claim that the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (Gsoc) has grown increasingly powerful in recent years without being subject to any checks.

They say the commission's integrity was damaged during the "surveillance episode" last year when it was wrongly alleged that its headquarters had been bugged.

And they also cited the commission's failure to identify who had been responsible for "unauthorised disclosure" of its allegations to the media.

The gardaí now want the Government to consider legislation giving summary powers to another body to make Gsoc accountable for its performance.

The leader of the Garda Representative Association (GRA), PJ Stone, said that for Gsoc to investigate itself or to be empowered to nominate an investigator of its own choice was simply absurd. "Yet no one in authority has publicly recognised this anomaly as a flaw in legislation", he added.

Mr Stone said it was healthy for his association and Gsoc to avoid having any kind of cosy relationship.

But there had to be a time when everyone behaved as mature grown-ups and that time had come, Mr Stone wrote in an editorial in the association magazine, 'Garda Review'.

He asked what lessons had been learned so far from any powerful agency that refused to acknowledge its own mistakes.

"For many of our members, the lack of humility and the permanent defensiveness of Gsoc is the one consistent factor.

"It has appeared that each of their commissioners has retained the premise of infallibility and regularly rebuked criticism.

"This is understandable but patently unhelpful," Mr Stone said.

Gsoc had been established to fulfil a vital role but he wondered what should be done when this came into question.

Mr Stone also raised the recent death of Ballyshannon sergeant Michael Galvin, who took his own life apparently after he was questioned by Gsoc during an investigation into a hit-and-run accident and was not told that he had been cleared of any wrongdoing.

Gsoc was to investigate his death but Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald subsequently announced that the probe would be carried out by a Supreme Court judge.

Irish Independent

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