Are the Gardaí a changing police force or another convenient political football?
'The Government can and will demand that An Garda Síochána at every level, challenges its own culture and faces up to the unexamined habits within the police service that may need to be stripped away".
This is what Frances Fitzgerald on 21st July at the Magill Summer School. The speech was made ten days after she received the Review Report of the Department of Justice chaired by Kevin Tolan, seven days before the Report was published on the 28th July. The review group had been asked to examine concerns expressed by Seán Guerin SC in respect of the Department of Justice's governance practices and its oversight of external organisations.
The report itself is highly critical of the relationship between the Department of Justice and An Garda Síochána. It cited a "deferential relationship" which the Department has developed towards an organisation that it purports to preside over. Given the level of criticism reserved for the force within the speech, Frances Fitzgerald's words were clearly designed to counteract any suggestion of continuing deference under her stewardship. The timing of the speech is also important as it afforded a relatively new Minister the opportunity to put clear blue water between her and her predecessors in advance of the damning review's release. This could explain the delay in the publication of the Report and its recommendations.