Thursday 1 September 2016

Enough talking – action needed on Garda reform

Published 23/07/2014 | 02:30

Justice Minster Frances Fitzgerald
Justice Minster Frances Fitzgerald

The Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald 'set out her stall' in the pages of the Irish Independent last Monday when she declared the need for a fundamental change in the "structure and culture" of the Garda Siochana. She also said that "a series of systemic failings have caused massive controversy and generated mistrust in the police service".

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Speaking at the MacGill Summer School last night the acting Garda Commissioner Noreen O'Sullivan agreed that the force was "damaged"; "hurting" and "in need of change". Recent controversies have focused the public mind on instances "where we have not lived up to our own standards" she said.

However, she disagreed that the force was "broken" or that the Minister for Justice has said it is.

However, this was a term used by the leader of rank and file gardai, Mr PJ Stone, who has urged the minister to find out what is "broken" with the gardai, before setting out to fix it.

Clearly rank and file gardai are no more comfortable than anybody else about the series of unfortunate events involving whistleblowers and allegations of bugging that have dragged on through the last 18 months.

Given the resignations of the previous Minister for Justice, Alan Shatter, over the Guerin Report and the early retirement of the Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan, after a series of controversies from penalty points to the GSOC bugging, it is difficult to disagree with either the minister or the acting commissioner.

Now it is imperative that action takes precedence over words. It is important for the force and the public that these controversies are not allowed to drag on any further.

Ms Fitzgerald, as Minister for Justice, has a clear mission from Government, and indeed from public opinion, to go into the Dail after the summer recess and speedily bring in the legislation that is needed to put in place the structures that will suit a modern police force and facilitate it doing its job.

Proper strategy vital to combat scourge of drugs

Can 'people power' go any way towards solving the drug problem that has swept through the towns and villages of Ireland? The people of Roscrea, Co Tipperary, think so and more than 500 of them took to the streets to vent their anger at the scourge of drug dealing in their town. Unfortunately it is a strategy that has been tried before, but it seems the greed and evil intentions of the drug pushers often outruns the good intentions of those trying to stop them.

What good it will do remains to be seen, but what is to be welcomed is the fact that the protesters did not show any anger or malice towards drug addicts themselves, indeed those leading the campaign in Roscrea appear to be in sympathy with the victims who have succumbed to this crippling addiction.

Drug addiction, particularly heroin addiction, is a scourge. It is an appalling reflection on our society that what was once an inner city blight has now spread to almost every town in the country.

The protesters in Roscrea have also highlighted the fact that local gardai are struggling to deal with the problem. But law enforcement alone cannot solve the drugs issue. We have had various strategies in place over the years and yet drugs continue to invade and destroy communities.

There is little doubt that as long as there is vast amounts of money to be made from illegal drugs the curse will persist.

But it is imperative that tougher law enforcement aimed at the pushers and suppliers, combined with greater rehabilitation services for addicts, are needed. But most importantly we need a strategy to divert young people from drugs in the first place.

The people of Roscrea have taken one small step, but it is one that could gain momentum given the correct garda support.

Irish Independent

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