Fionnan Sheahan

Thursday 21 August 2014

Era of the 'nod and a wink' has finally come to an end

Published 13/03/2014 | 02:30

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Garda

'IF everyone had just followed the manual... we wouldn't be dealing with this." The lament of senior garda officers to the Garda Inspectorate's Chief Inspector, 30978268, rather sums up the penalty points fiasco.

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The manual allowed for gardai to cancel out penalty points where appropriate.

It didn't, however, allow for the indiscriminate wiping of points in an unsupervised and ad hoc fashion.

The garda watchdog has found "inconsistent and widespread breaches" of the penalty points system by gardai.

The Garda Inspectorate's report reiterated the findings of previous reports and the scrutiny of the system.

The system was dysfunctional.

The tipping point between compassionate cancellation of points and the wrongful wiping of notices is still not clear.

What is apparent is the failure of the garda management side to ensure there was adequate monitoring of the operation of the system. Fairness and transparency are not alien concepts.

The report sets out a template for the tightening up of the penalty points system in the long run.

The 'nod and wink' will be done away with, as structures are put in place for the cancellation of points to be taken out of the hands of local gardai and to be administered centrally.

The publication of the report has once again inflamed the row between the garda hierarchy and the whistleblowers who started the examination of the system.

Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan stood over his use of the term "disgusting" in relation to the leaking of details of the scrapping of penalty points.

Justice Minister Alan Shatter acknowledged the role of the whistleblowers.

But he wasn't going to apologise for their treatment and stuck to his view that they were not right in all their allegations.

"In some of the issues they raised, they have been provided to be right. In other issues, they haven't been proved to be right," he said.

Mr Shatter also remained critical of individual gardai "liberally accessing information" on the system and disclosing it in public.

The debate over the rights and wrongs of the whistleblowers' actions continues.

Irish Independent

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