'Senior gardaí faked test data to win promotion' - claims GRA
The falsification of almost 1.5 million breath tests was fuelled by senior officers as part of a bid to "improve their promotion chances".
The dramatic claim was made by the Garda Representative Association (GRA), which last night warned that its members will not be "scapegoated" for the breath test scandal.
In an extraordinary statement, the body representing rank-and-file members accused Garda management of trying to wash its hands of the controversy.
And the GRA said officers of more senior rank falsified figures in order to boost their promotion prospects.
The full version: GRA spokesperson John O'Keeffe's interview with RTÉ Crime Correspondent Paul Reynolds over breathalyser data controversy pic.twitter.com/74XKy5157C— RTÉ News (@rtenews) September 14, 2017
"It is clear in the report that Garda management do not wish to be blamed for this debacle - but it is entirely of their own making," the GRA said.
"The GRA questions why Garda management required data on the number of negative breath tests at a time when Garda resources were scarce or diminishing. This data was utilised as a crude measure of productivity - and fed into a culture of competition among senior ranks to improve their promotion chances.
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"No one can categorically say that it was our members falsifying data - we have numerous examples of supervisors and managers having input into this system. There was also little or no training; and the recording process was obviously flawed."
The statement was released following a lengthy, and at times tense, meeting of the GRA's Central Executive Council. Members criticised the GRA executive for its failure to speak publicly on the matter.
The report, led by Assistant Commissioner Michael O'Sullivan, discovered 1.5 million recorded breath tests were never carried out. Some 3,498,400 tests were recorded on the Garda's Pulse computer system, but only 2,040,179 were carried out.
The GRA said that rank-and-file officers got little or no training and that the recording process was obviously flawed.
"Our members will not be scapegoated for ill-considered policies - and this should be the focus of political attention.
"If the people of Ireland have been let down; then it is in the management and deployment of scant resources to appease the need for purposeless data by those in power."
There was further confusion last night after its spokesman John O'Keeffe claimed members did not falsify figures. Under questioning on RTÉ, he said members merely "elevated" figures after coming under pressure from management.
Earlier, the GRA had backed the Government's proposed extension to the Lansdowne Road Agreement. There were 20 votes in favour, 14 against and four abstentions.
But GRA sources last night said there was no guarantee that the wider membership will go along with the recommendation.
"We are already getting a backlash from members," one source said. Members will vote later this month.
In response to the outcome of the GRA meeting, Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan told the Irish Independent: "I warmly welcome GRA acceptance of pay agreement and look forward to working with them on the ambitious Garda reform programme."