Friday 9 December 2016

'Whistleblowers must be encouraged to speak up'

Published 10/09/2016 | 02:30

Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan at the Kennedy Summer School in New Ross, Co Wexford, last night. Photo: Patrick Browne
Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan at the Kennedy Summer School in New Ross, Co Wexford, last night. Photo: Patrick Browne

Garda Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan has said that whistleblowers within the organisation must be encouraged to have the confidence to speak up.

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And she defended the 'civilianisation' of the force, saying it is welcome and is "the future of An Garda Síochána".

Ms O'Sullivan said she had personally communicated with every member of the policing organisation to say that it was their "duty to speak up if there's something they're not sure about".

Speaking in public at a sit-down interview with barrister and political pundit Noel Whelan at the Kennedy Summer School in New Ross, Co Wexford, last night, the commissioner said that society had changed so much that people were more inclined to speak their minds.

And she commented that she and her generation were "probably the last generation" who were "more used to compliance".

She addressed the issue of rural crime, saying the fear was very real among communities - but gave assurances that work is being done and claimed that when she visits rural communities, she is told that more gardaí are visible now than there had been.

Addressing the issue of morale within the force, the commissioner acknowledged that pay remained an issue, saying that much had been done to improve working conditions, often "archaic" for gardaí, with better technology. Pay remains the last issue that needs to be addressed and she said "there are mechanisms in place for that".

Senator Lynn Ruane, in the audience, asked the commissioner what structures and resources were being put in place for families who stand up and name people in gangs against a background of "enormous pressure", specifically mentioning the Maughan family who had suffered the stress of a family member's grave being desecrated.

The commissioner said she would not talk about specific cases but that her sympathies went out to the Maughan family. She said some intimidation can take place within communities and families themselves, and said that she would encourage anybody with difficulties with intimidation to come forward to the gardaí.

Meanwhile, Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald told the Summer School that a creeping anti-globalisation sentiment was gaining traction, with this sense of exclusion witnessed in the recent Brexit vote and the US presidential election - and sometimes at home too.

"Ireland is open to the world and we make no apologies for that," said the Tánaiste.

Irish Independent

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