Bitter row can't conceal fact that detectives need informers
THE harsh criticism of gardai by their watchdog body and its attempt to apportion blame for the delay in a four-year investigation smacks of sour grapes.
The Garda Siochana Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) obviously put a huge amount of work into the file it furnished to the DPP on what has become known as the "Boylan case".
But the lengthy investigation, which has been the subject of countless media leaks, failed to uncover sufficient evidence for the DPP to charge any of the officers involved with criminal offences.
GSOC also accepted that it would not be pursuing any disciplinary action against the detectives involved – presumably because there was no evidence to merit such measures.
The emphasis placed by GSOC Commissioner Kieran Fitzgerald on delays in receiving sensitive security documents has caused a breakdown in the relationship between the watchdog and gardai.
Garda sources last night accused GSOC of creating a "smoke screen" to deflect from its own handling of the case and one would be tempted to agree with that assertion.
The Justice Minister's unprecedented decision to publish a report from the High Court Judge who monitors the garda informant handling system, CHIS, also seems to undermine some of the criticisms made by the watchdog.
The judge said that he was satisfied that An Garda Siochana is in "substantial compliance" with the established CHIS system.
The row that blew up yesterday between both organisations has the potential to undermine public confidence in the garda handling of informants.
The truth is that there is no point in officers going to the local bishop or creche owner to glean hard intelligence.
They must deal with criminals and terrorists – people who are devious, manipulative and ruthless by nature.
Agent handling is vital in the war against organised crime and terrorism
Information from garda informants has saved lives, led to hundreds of arrests and huge seizures of guns and drugs.
It's a dirty business, but we should be glad that there are people with the stomach to do it for the greater good of society.