Tuesday 10 December 2019

Comment: Force will get much-needed boost from initiatives

Tom Brady

Tom Brady

THE thrust of the Government's "comprehensive response" to the Guerin Report appears directed at short-term initiatives that will help restore public confidence in the garda force and the Department of Justice as well as providing a morale boost to employees in both agencies.

The aim is to get these initiatives up and running while awaiting the establishment of the heavyweight commission of inquiry.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny made it clear yesterday that there would be a short timeframe for the completion of an independent expert review of performance, management and administration of the department.

It is expected that it will be completed before the summer recess, suggesting that whoever is selected to carry out the task will already have wide experience of how a government department should be run.

Internal preparations for changes in the garda force are already under way. Interim Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan has selected a team of senior officers to review the damaging Guerin findings and the group, chaired by an assistant commissioner, has held initial talks.

This review will help the gardai to create a more streamlined response to how the changes should be implemented. It will pave the way for the Garda Inspectorate to carry out a more independent assessment but, in the meantime, should lead to more periodic oversight of operations by senior management. One of the more striking findings from Sean Guerin was the lack of oversight of garda investigations by management and this will now be taken on board.

Rather than a knee-jerk reaction to the forced retirement of former commissioner Martin Callinan, the Government has also wisely opted to recruit a successor by open competition in parallel with the establishment of an independent garda authority.

Despite the fallout from the controversies, gardai continue by and large to provide an excellent policing service and, in the past few days, we have seen an off-duty garda foil an armed cash-in-transit raid; the arrest of a suspect for a violent burglary; the detention of another suspect for a car hijacking and assault on a pregnant woman; and a series of drug busts. That should not be lost in the welter of complaints and criticism.

Irish Independent

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