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Friday 22 August 2014

Watchdog says gardai still unwilling to co-operate

Brian Hutton

Published 04/07/2013 | 05:00

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GARDAI are routinely unwilling to co-operate with investigations by the Garda Ombudsman, even into minor matters such as bad manners or discourtesy.

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The watchdog again hit out at the force for delaying its investigations and questioning its motives when asking for records or other information.

Addressing an Oireachtas committee, Carmel Foley, one of the three Garda Ombudsman commissioners, said officers are routinely unwilling to take part in even informal attempts to resolve complaints made against them.

Instead they "come in with their lawyers and say 'no comment, no comment, no comment'", she said, adding that it was often for minor issues such as discourtesy or bad manners.

In the latest broadside between the force and its watchdog, the Ombudsman also claimed the force was suffering a huge shock to the system from being asked to account for itself.

"We are conscious that the garda have been here since the foundation of the State, and that a culture change is needed," she said.

"There is no doubt that oversight by a body (the Ombudsman), which is seven years in operation, is a huge shock to the system."

Ms Foley said until the Ombudsman was handed oversight powers in the wake of the Morris Tribunal, no other state body could carry out activities similar to the gardai.

"The first time we entered a garda station with a search warrant there was some shock to the system," she said.

"The first time we arrested a garda there was shock."

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Simon O'Brien, chairman of the Garda Ombudsman, also hit out at the force for delaying its investigations and questioning the motives of the watchdog when asking for records or information.

"That one state body investigating another should be asked for the relevance of a request, before materials pertinent to an investigation are released, is a matter of considerable concern," he said.

"I doubt the Garda Siochana would readily accept such demands from parties under investigation by them."

The Ombudsman was asked to appear before the Oireachtas Public Service Oversight and Petitions Committee after it openly attacked the force in May for not co-operating with it.

Irish Independent

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