Saturday 15 December 2018

'It's as if the buck stops nowhere' in Garda governance, says expert group

Charlie Flanagan said there have been many challenges. Photo: Mark Condren
Charlie Flanagan said there have been many challenges. Photo: Mark Condren
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Governance of the Garda appears to have developed so that the "buck stops nowhere".

That is the opinion of an expert group tasked with examining the relationship between the force and the Department of Justice in the wake of a string of controversies.

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan said the department would undergo a radical restructuring which would see it split between two divisions - Justice and Equality and Home Affairs. He also announced that senior civil servant Aidan O'Driscoll had been appointed as the department's new secretary general.

The independent Effectiveness and Renewal Group (ERG) was established in January, weeks after the resignation of former Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald as justice minister.

The ERG's first report says the current governance model of the Garda was developed reactively in response to various crises and that this has "created what appears to be a splintered system in which, despite good work being done by many, there is little clear accountability, allocation of responsibility, or obvious efficiencies".

The report adds: "It is as if the system has naturally evolved to ensure that the buck stops nowhere. This is the antithesis of the department's objective as it can lead to ministers, secretaries general and Garda commissioners having to resign, step aside or retire, even for issues not of their own making, simply because accountability cannot be found elsewhere."

Mr Flanagan said the department had faced "many difficult challenges" in recent times, and that it was clear from the ERG report that its traditional structure "is not equipping it to effectively meet the vast range of demands it faces today".

The restructuring of the department is to take place within nine months.

The Government has also approved the nomination of five new judges across the High Court and Circuit and District Courts. This comes despite reforms to the judicial appointments process sought by Transport Minister Shane Ross still being debated in Leinster House. A Government spokesman said it remained the intention to get the Judicial Appointments Bill passed by the summer recess.

Irish Independent

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