Friday 23 June 2017

'Keep them in the dark,' Gardai told to give media the 'mushroom treatment'

Garda Sergeant Tony Quinn at the AGSI conference in Killarney
Garda Sergeant Tony Quinn at the AGSI conference in Killarney
Cathal McMahon

Cathal McMahon

Mid-ranking gardaí have called for suitable training for sergeants and inspectors to prepare them for their interactions with journalists.

Members of An Garda Síochana below the rank of Superintendent are not currently permitted to interact directly or indirectly with the media.

Gardaí face a fine of €50,000 or five years imprisonment for breaking this law.

Addressing the 39th Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI) Annual Delegate Conference Garda Sergeant Tony Quinn said far too often we hear or read information “coming from a senior garda source”.

“Wouldn’t it be preferable if the source was named and a person trained in media relations?”

Sgt Quinn said the only media training he received was a one hour talk from the garda press office when he was doing his sergeant’s promotion course in 2008.

“All I took from that was to give the media the ‘mushroom’ treatment. Keep them in the dark and feed them plenty of manure.

“This is not good enough.”

Sgt Quinn said that under Chapter 17.3 of the Garda Code an allowance is given to members of sergeant rank to address members of local media on matters of local interest.

This section of the code requires the members selected to undergo media training.

The motion called for the the Garda Commissioner to fulfil this obligation.

Speaking to Independent.ie Sgt Quinn, who is based in Tullamore, Co Offaly, said media relations is a very important part of their job.

“We should see them [media] as an ally, rather than some sort of threat to us.”

He continued: “In other jurisdictions we see press briefings, it’s not a thing we seem to do.

“We are relying on a senior garda source rather than a person possibly trained in garda relations.”

He said that that people sometimes do not trust unnamed sources.

Speaking in support of the motion garda sergeant Paul Wallace of the AGSI national executive said gardaí live in fear of being mis-quoted.

A garda spokesperson told Independent.ie that a media training programme has been put in place over the last two years.

"Over 200 personnel have been trained through this process including 24 Inspectors," the spoksperson said.

"This media training was put in place so we could make more Gardai available to the media to speak on the record.

"In addition, media training is provided as a module in the Inspectors Development Course. This training includes mock interviews.

"At all times in this training the emphasis is on dealing with the media in an open and honest way while ensuring prosecutions and investigations are protected.

"We are currently planning to put in place regional press officers who will then identify what other personnel at all ranks require further media training."

Last month it was revealed by thejournal.ie that gardaí spent over €90,000 in just five months on media training for the service’s personnel.

Gardaí engaged the services of the Dublin-based Communications Clinic.

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