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Saturday 24 March 2018

PAC member: Internal garda penalty points report was 'soft' on the force

John McGuinness
John McGuinness

Shane Phelan Public Affairs Editor

The Dail’s spending watchdog has criticised the practice of gardai conducting internal reports into contentious issues in the aftermath of the penalty points debacle.

Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) John McGuinness said: “The day of internal reports or secret reports is over.”

He made the comments at a meeting of the PAC this morning after another committee member, Shane Ross, described an internal report on the penalty points issue by Assistant Commissioner John O’Mahony as being “soft on the gardai”.

Mr Ross said gardai should “never again” be able to do an internal report, suggesting serious issues should be the subject of outside scrutiny.

Mr O’Mahony’s report found no evidence of corruption or deception, but recommended three senior members of the force face disciplinary proceedings.

However, the assistant commissioner admitted neither of the two garda whistleblowers, Sgt Maurice McCabe or retired garda John Wilson, had been interviewed for the report.

Mr McGuinness said there was “an issue in relation to the O’Mahony report and what we were hearing afterwards”.

He said Sgt McCabe was “simply not listened to” within the force when he raised concerns about abuses of the system by senior officers.

The PAC chairman also said: “Someone in the system has to shout stop to what is happening to whistleblowers”.

The comments were made as the committee debated a draft report it has prepared on the penalty points issue. The final report is due to be published next week.

The draft report found that former Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan "lost control" of the penalty points controversy and placed the protection of the force ahead of ensuring whistle-blower complaints were investigated properly.

It concluded that systemic weakness in the penalty points system saw 20pc of fines not being collected at a cost of €6m a year.

Mr Ross said the report should pose the question as to whether or not gardai should still have some discretion around the application of penalty points.

“If so many of them are abusing it, should they have it,” he said.

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