Friday 23 March 2018

Gardaí reject call to share blame for breath test fiasco

One million false tests 'is a management issue' Gardaí want more access to tasers as attacks on rise

GRA president Ciaran O’Neill speaks ahead of the ADM Picture: CONOR Ó MEARÁIN
GRA president Ciaran O’Neill speaks ahead of the ADM Picture: CONOR Ó MEARÁIN
Tom Brady

Tom Brady

Rank-and-file gardaí have rejected claims by their boss that there should be shared blame for the drink-driving fiasco that resulted in almost a million fake breath tests being recorded.

Garda Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan argued that there must be collective responsibility for the false figures, which are currently under investigation.

But that was dismissed last night by the president of the Garda Representative Association, Ciarán O'Neill, who said Garda management must be held responsible.

"This is a management issue - they're the ones that come up with the statistics, the ones that set up the checkpoints and send out people every day to do the checkpoints," Mr O'Neill said at his association's annual conference in Galway.

He said his association did not know the figures, had no access to the data and had not been asked to play a role in the investigation being carried out by Assistant Commissioner Michael O'Sullivan. Until those inquiries had been completed, his association would not make any comment on what had happened, he added.

Read More: Gardaí 'refuse' to listen to pleas on speeding - judge

Individual members might have been asked questions and if there were problems with "made up stuff", procedures such as disciplinary regulations were in place to deal with them. But those regulations had not yet been invoked.

He was not aware during his time in the uniformed branch of breath test figures ever being fraudulently recorded and had not heard any anecdotal evidence either. Asked for an explanation as to how almost a million breath tests had been recorded on a computer when they had not been carried out, he said that was a job for the investigation team to establish.

In response to Ms O'Sullivan's comment the wrong figures were due either to "incompetence at best or deception at worst", Mr O'Neill said the disciplinary regulations would deal with that if it was established there had been deception or dishonesty.

Vice president Jim Mulligan said association members felt they were being blamed for something that was not of their own making.

The conference is also focussed on the growing number of assaults on gardaí and called for fresh legislation and better equipment to deter attacks.

Mr O'Neill said his association wanted the Government to introduce a minimum mandatory sentence for an assault on a garda or any other frontline emergency worker, with at least a year in jail being imposed for those convicted. It is also seeking greater use of tasers.

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald recently confirmed that 631 gardaí had been injured on duty in 2015 while official figures showed that 5,417 members had been injured on duty since 2006, with five on-duty fatalities. Assaults on gardaí were not recorded officially, unless there was a criminal prosecution or a member had to take at least three days' sick leave because of injury.

Many more injuries were sustained and not reported. "Such is the culture that members are routinely expected to accept injury and assault as part of the job. This is unacceptable", Mr O'Neill said.

"Our workplace is every single part of the State - where every conceivable danger is possible from high speed pursuit to armed robbery, from hypodermic needles to dangerous animals. We provide a catch-all service that is the last line of defence between our people and mortal danger," he added.

Meanwhile, interim deputy general secretary Robbie Peelo said gardaí in the Louth division, and particularly the Dundalk district, would never recover from the murders of Det Garda Adrian Donohoe and Garda Tony Golden. He said gardaí had lost two colleagues while families had lost loved ones.

Irish Independent

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