The Garda Siochana Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) came into force in May 2007 and took over responsibility for receiving and dealing with all complaints made by the public about the conduct of gardai.
Dealings between the gardai and GSOC have seldom been straightforward and there has been friction – not least over the issue of access to criminal intelligence gathered by members of the force.
There were clashes between the force and its watchdog over the level of co-operation provided by the gardai.
Last year, Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan rejected claims by the Ombudsman that the force was in need of a culture change and said he was satisfied that none of its informants was being run "off the books".
And rank and file gardai have also expressed dissatisfaction with GSOC.
An editorial in the Garda Representative Association magazine, 'Garda Review' was unusually strident in its criticism. The association told the Ombudsman Commission last summer that it did not have the confidence of members at the coalface.
"Trust is hard earned and easily lost and while the GSOC continues to fail to prosecute those who make vexatious and malicious complaints against members, this will not improve," the GRA editorial stated.
GSOC was set up with the mission of providing an efficient, fair and independent oversight of policing in Ireland.
Under the Garda Siochana Act, signed into law by President Mary McAleese in 2005, GSOC was given powers to also investigate matters where no complaint has been made but where it appears that a garda may have committed an offence or behaved in a way that would justify disciplinary proceedings.
The three commissioners are: former Police Commander with the London Met, Simon O'Brien; former civil servant and former Director of Consumer Affairs, Carmel Foley; and former RTE journalist Kieran FitzGerald. They oversee a management team of four who deal with day-to-day operations at GSOC.