Anti-corruption Garda unit 'will be up and running by end of year'
A new anti-corruption unit in the Garda will be up and running before the end of the year, according to Commissioner Drew Harris.
The unit will focus initially on gathering intelligence on alleged wrongdoing in the force and will then be expanded to become more pro-active.
Mr Harris said the information collected by the unit would be shared by the Garda authorities with the Garda Ombudsman Commission (Gsoc) and he believed it was appropriate that gardaí should gather the intelligence as it would be difficult for an external agency to be aware of "data flowing" outside the organisation.
The commissioner announced a timeline for the setting-up of the anti-corruption unit as his senior officers called for clarity from Gsoc chairwoman Ms Justice Mary Ellen Ring on her comments that the Garda risked being accused of a "cover-up, bias and corruption" because it was not notifying it of internal investigations.
Her remarks baffled the Association of Garda Superintendents, whose president Noel Cunningham said they made no sense.
Ms Justice Ring told the Oireachtas Justice Committee yesterday that Gsoc had learned of some Garda inquiries into alleged wrongdoing in the force through the media and she said Gsoc found that troubling.
But Mr Cunningham told his association's annual conference in Naas that she needed to clarify her comments as it was difficult to understand any suggestion of a cover-up.
He said every investigation was reported through an official process and it did not make sense that anybody would try to hide an internal inquiry when a lot of people, including potential witnesses, would know about it.
Last night, Gsoc had no further comment to make on Ms Justice Ring's remarks.
Mr Harris said that people should be assured that the Garda was serious about wrongdoing in the organisation and would make sure it was stamped out.
He said that while the anti-corruption unit would operate out of Garda headquarters, gardaí would also work closely with Gsoc and the two could share their information.
The unit would not take the job of Gsoc, he added.
"There is all forms of wrongdoing and corruption that we will become aware of first. We know our workforce best and I think we have a responsibility to make sure it is a healthy workforce in terms of its behaviour," he said.
He said the corruption to be investigated would comprise any form of criminality or behaviour, which was grossly outside the Garda discipline code, such as use of drugs and inappropriate associations with criminals or victims of crime.
An initial blueprint for the new unit has already been drawn up by Assistant Garda Commissioner Dave Sheahan and this will be developed in the coming months to ensure it is "up and running" in 2019.
Asked about the drugs trade, Mr Harris said the force was very concerned about violence connected with the trade and was particularly focused on areas such as north and west Dublin and Drogheda.