Wednesday 28 September 2016

Tragic death of garda again throws unwanted spotlight on watchdog

Paul Williams

Published 03/06/2015 | 02:30

The State agency's paranoid belief that it had been at the centre of a real-life James Bond drama caused unprecedented crisis which contributed to the resignations of Commissioner Martin Callinan and Justice Minister Alan Shatter
The State agency's paranoid belief that it had been at the centre of a real-life James Bond drama caused unprecedented crisis which contributed to the resignations of Commissioner Martin Callinan and Justice Minister Alan Shatter

The circumstances of the tragic death of Sergeant Mick Galvin, driven to despair by a GSOC investigation, has again thrown an unwanted spotlight on the garda watchdog.

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In a bid to explain his actions the much-loved husband, father, colleague, friend and dedicated public servant left a letter in which he said he could not face being treated like a criminal.

We now know that as he wrote that last heartbreaking letter, Mick Galvin had no idea that he had been officially cleared of any wrongdoing days earlier.

But no one in the garda watchdog body had picked up the phone to tell him he had nothing to worry about.

So try the impossible and attempt to imagine how that knowledge was received by Collette Galvin, who has been left a widow with three very young children.

The brave mother told the 3,000 mourners who gathered for her husband's funeral on Sunday: "He gave his life to the job and I hope that after today all decent and honest members of An Garda Síochána will be allowed to do their jobs without horrendous and unnecessary investigations by GSOC."

No one could argue with her statement yesterday that she does not want GSOC to have any involvement in the investigation of her husband's death, even if they do commission an independent review.

Sgt Galvin's representatives in the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI) have called for a Government-appointed enquiry led by a High Court Judge. But this is not the first time that the Garda watchdog body has found itself embroiled in unnecessary controversy of its own making.

The maelstrom of controversy that swept through the country's justice system last year began with false allegations that GSOC had been bugged.

The State agency's paranoid belief that it had been at the centre of a real-life James Bond drama caused unprecedented crisis which contributed to the resignations of Commissioner Martin Callinan and Justice Minister Alan Shatter.

The aftershocks also forced the removal of Brian Purcell as the Secretary General in the Department of Justice.

An independent investigation by retired High Court judge John Cooke subsequently debunked the bugging claims.

It was amazing that given the enormity of the allegations, which were confirmed by GSOC at the time, that heads did not roll.

Independent oversight of the gardaí is vital in the public interest - but GSOC has a serious credibility problem.

The relationship between the watchdog and the people it monitors was already fraught long before a decent family man was driven to despair. But this tragedy was the final straw for many.

Irish Independent

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