Sunday 19 November 2017

Garda chief urged to defend the force from allegations in Dáil

Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan addresses the GRA Annual Delegate Conference in Carlow
Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan addresses the GRA Annual Delegate Conference in Carlow

Paul Williams

Rank-and-file gardaí have urged Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan to "speak up" for them when allegations are made in the Dáil.

The Garda management was criticised by members at the Garda Representative Association's annual conference for not defending their honour enough in the media.

The GRA says its members are angry and frustrated that Garda management has made little effort to respond to the unrelenting "unfair criticism" they have endured over the past year.

The use of Dáil privilege to make allegations against gardaí has been a recurring theme at this year's conference, as has the use of social media to target and intimidate individual gardaí.

GRA president Dermot O'Brien complained that his members felt that senior management was doing nothing to defend them in the face of "unfiltered and unsubstantiated allegations" by politicians.

"We respectfully ask - as you are our leader - that you speak up for the organisation: and stand up for us when we are attacked in the Oireachtas and in the media," said Mr O'Brien in an address to Ms O'Sullivan.

"It's your voice only that can respond with dignity and authority. We fully understand the role of journalism and the need in society for accountability, we have always welcomed impartial, independent investigation," he said, adding, "but there are occasions when we are unfairly targeted for criticism arising from us carrying out our routine and legitimate daily work.

"Criticism is one thing. But unfiltered and unsubstantiated allegations are another."

Garda O'Brien also criticised the silence of senior managers since the publication of the controversial Guerin Report, which looked at claims that serious crimes were not properly investigated by the Garda.

"Where has the voice of our leadership been since publication of the Guerin Report? Our members referred to in that report remain ignored and indeed abandoned by Garda management," Mr O'Brien said.

Addressing Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald, the GRA president returned to the use of Dáil privilege.

"We have recently learned of a garda station where shots have been fired at the station, but we don't hear the cry of Dáil privilege being used to name the criminal element who perpetrated this act," he said.

When it came to pay and conditions, he said members had suffered enough and made sacrifices during the recession.

"Minister, as we now enter an era of investment and replenishment, we ask that you do not forget our contribution in the country's hour of need. It is time to pay back our goodwill," he said.

Speaking before attending the conference, Ms O'Sullivan said she is unaware of any case where a person was murdered by a garda and the crime then covered up by colleagues, as was claimed recently in the Dáil.

Ms O'Sullivan said that she was aware of an allegation but wasn't aware of any specifics, urging anyone who had information to go to GSOC or herself.

Independent TD Claire Daly made the allegations using Dáil privilege more than two weeks ago.

Although she offered no specifics, Ms Daly claimed that an officer who witnessed a colleague shooting a civilian was then ordered by superiors to say he wasn't there.

The Commissioner said that Ms Daly should back up her allegations by either going directly to her or the Garda watchdog body.

"I am certainly aware of the allegations. I am not aware of any specifics surrounding the incident, but again the appropriate forum for such a serious allegation is to bring the matter to the attention of the Ombudsman Commission or indeed myself, where the matter will be properly investigated," Ms O'Sullivan said.

"We would need to have more specifics before we could come to even the conclusion that it is an allegation of murder."

Irish Independent

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