Minister is accused of encouraging garda mutiny
Gardai have accused their political boss of encouraging young members of the force to mutiny by refusing to obey instructions ordered by more senior officers. And they say her comments can only end in trouble.
The controversial remarks were made by Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald as she welcomed the latest intake of recruits into the Garda College in Templemore, Co Tipperary. She told the recruits they must be prepared to say "no" to instructions if they believed the orders to be wrong.
But her advice has now been criticised by the leader of the rank and file Garda Representative Association, PJ Stone. The association's general secretary warned that her words could be construed as encouragement to indiscipline or licence to mutiny, if taken at face value from such a senior and experienced politician.
"Surely, the minister was not undermining the pyramid structure of rank, within a disciplined force," he asked.
Mr Stone said it could be assumed from the comments that there was "a culture of encouragement for whistleblowing when an individual feels they are being directed towards what they construe to be garda wrongdoing, malpractice or corruption".
He pointed out that whistleblowing took many forms and his association had continually underlined deficiencies in resources, processes and policies within the force. Whistleblowing as a confidential source also had protocols and protections under law. It would also soon be possible for one garda to report another to the Garda Ombudsman Commission.
But no whistleblowing policy, Mr Stone said, covered a junior garda refusing to carry out a lawful instruction given by a senior rank and this could only end in trouble.
He said gardai had been told about a "sea change" in the organisation's culture but wondered if this involved full investigations taking several months with scant resources.
"It appears so, with the Garda professional standards unit establishing that allegations of wholesale or widespread abuse of penalty points, by a confidential source, came down to seven cases post-June 2014, that were sent for further analysis.
"One of those cases turned out to be a patrol car that had not been logged as such and five cases where the post was not delivered...This is simply a case of a disciplined, pyramid structure being inverted, or tail wags dog", he added.
Mr Stone argued that a confusing signal was being sent to members of garda rank, which wrongly appeared to be encouraging the kind of dissent that would see members suffer at the hands of the discipline regulations, the Ombudsman or the Director of Public Prosecutions, if they misconstrued the tenor of the message.