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Wednesday 21 March 2018

Garda whistleblower policy to be redrafted following criticism

Garda Commissioner Norin O'Sullivan speaks at the meeting of the Policing Authority. Photo: Tony Gavin
Garda Commissioner Norin O'Sullivan speaks at the meeting of the Policing Authority. Photo: Tony Gavin
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan has been forced to redraft the force’s new whistleblower policy just four months after it was delivered.

The policy was a key demand of the Policing Authority in the wake of controversies over the treatment of whistleblowers such as Sgt Maurice McCabe.

However, a review by the authority has asked for significant changes. It found that, as currently drafted, the policy does not actively encourage gardaí to voice concerns about wrongdoing or explain the value of protected disclosures to the organisation.

In a report, the authority also raise concerns about the fact Commissioner O’Sullivan was the only person who can decide whether a protected disclosure is investigated. She also appoints the investigator.

“The requirement that the Garda Commissioner be initial decision-maker in relation to the appointment of an investigator creates a difficulty, not least because there is no one more senior to consider any request for a decision not to investigate,” the report said.

“In addition, consideration should be given to situations where a conflict of interest may arise, such as in the event that allegations are made in respect of the Garda Commissioner.”

The report was also critical of the fact the policy only allows for whistleblowers to approach a protected disclosure manager and that they must use a specific form in all cases. The authority recommended that the policy should make clear that disclosures can also be made internally to someone other than the protected disclosure manager and this does not need to be done using the suggested form.

It also asked for a reference in the policy to bringing disciplinary action against a worker who raises a disclosure with malicious intent to be deleted as protected disclosure legislation says motivation is irrelevant.

However, the authority said disciplinary action was possible where a disclosure has been made in the absence of reasonable belief of wrongdoing.

Garda management have accepted the recommendations.

Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald welcomed the report, saying changing culture and attitudes would be crucial to maintaining trust in the force.

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