Sunday 23 October 2016

Fears about effect on the force are valid

Published 24/01/2014 | 02:30

IT was a gripping five-hour contest between Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan and his interrogators on the Dail Public Accounts Committee as they grappled over a raft of allegations, which cast a cloud over the senior officer corps in the force but remained unsubstantiated.

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Both sides made their points forcibly even though at times they appeared to struggle to understand the basis for the opposing views.

The penalty points controversy is a big "catch" for the committee, and its members seem determined it should remain at the forefront of the debate by ensuring that the next moves in the long-running saga should be played out in front of them.

The politicians cannot understand the concerns of the commissioner, who strongly believes it is not the right forum to consider accusations that more than 200 of his senior officers were involved in corruption and abuses of their discretionary powers when terminating penalty points.

They argue that their committee provides an outlet for whistleblowers to air their grievances if they are not satisfied they will be given a fair hearing by their authorities or secure justice through the confidential reporting system.

However, Mr Callinan sees the committee as a forum to examine revenue streams and look at value for money on behalf of the taxpayer.

Allegations regarding criminality, he believes, are more suited for investigation by gardai and the Director of Public Prosecutions.

The exchanges had an air of surrealism as Mr Callinan was questioned on accusations he had not seen or been briefed on.

While committee members may genuinely believe they can assist in establishing the veracity of the allegations, it is easy to understand why Mr Callinan should be concerned that a serving member of the force be allowed to hurl serious allegations of criminality against senior officers, who are not there to defend themselves.

He is right in his interpretation of the move that it could seriously undermine discipline in the force if every member felt it was possible to run to a Dail committee with a grievance.

Each forum has its limits, as the Abbeylara case showed.

Irish Independent

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