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Thursday 26 April 2018

Tanaiste tells senior gardaí: 'You are responsible for what happens on your watch'

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald. Photo: Kyran O'Brien
Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald. Photo: Kyran O'Brien

Robin Schiller

The Tanaiste has told senior gardaí that they are "responsible for what goes on" on their watch with the falsifying of almost a million breath tests a key discussion at their annual delegate conference.

Speaking this afternoon Frances Fitzgerald said that, while it is not about proportioning blame, it was important that senior gardaí took responsibility for the Mandatory Alcohol Test (MAT) issue.

Senior gardaí earlier said that the issue was down to resources and that no garda set out to inflate breath tests.

"The MATs issue, at face value, raises potentially serious ethical and cultural issues for the Garda Síochána. I have said before and I say it again here today, this is not about blame," Ms Fitzgerald told more than 50 delegates at the Association of Garda Superintendents annual conference in Naas, Co Kildare.

"It is though, about responsibility. It is about doing the right thing. It is about how we go about our business. I don’t need to tell you, as managers in An Garda Síochána, that supervisors and managers are responsible for what goes on on their watch. We need to find out what happened, why it happened, and make sure it never happens again. As Superintendents, you have a clear role to play in this," the Tanaiste added.

Earlier the association's president Supt Noel Cunningham said that, while the issue surrounding breath tests "wasn't a numbers game", he added that pressure was put on from Garda HQ to keep policing at certain levels during the recession.

“Certainly, pressure was kept on to ensure there was a presence on the roads, and that was during difficult times.

"We were enduring the reality during six years of austerity and we were endeavouring to provide as good a policing service as we possibly could with depleting numbers and resources," he said.

"There was no training going on, there was a lack of supervision because we didn’t have sufficient sergeants and inspectors on the ground and indeed superintendents positions were left vacant; the lack of numbers coming through for front line policing and the expectations from all of our over site groups- which is acceptable- was to provide a positive and upfront policing service and it was what we tried to do," Noel Cunningham added.

The Policing Authority is currently conducting an audit of the issues and will report to the Tanaiste in quarterly intervals on its progress.

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