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Garda reform has to be a top priority


Garda: File photo

Garda: File photo

Garda: File photo

If anybody thought the departure of former Minister for Justice Mr Alan Shatter, the re-deployment of the department's General Secretary Mr Brian Purcell and the early retirement of the Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan brought some sort of closure to a seemingly-endless series of controversies enveloping the administration of justice, they were very much mistaken.

Yesterday we had the report of the Garda Inspectorate. Today we have a series of documents from a review group of the Department of Justice which warned of a crises in the department two years before events spiralled out of control.

Of concern to most people will be yesterday's report of the Garda Inspectorate. It found "systematic operational deficiencies" in the operation of the Garda Siochana, which it said was in critical need of modernisation. What is of most concern is that it cited examples of regular gardai investigating serious crime - such as rape, threats to life, child sexual abuse and fraud - without proper training. The report pointed out that in other jurisdictions these types of crime are investigated by specialist units.

There were also examples of crimes not being entered in station logs - but no evidence of the figures being "massaged" for political reasons. However, it is impossible to have a properly functioning police service if we do not have an accurate picture of crime in Ireland. The Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald said the report showed "serious systemic weaknesses" and she was working to secure the necessary investment to remedy them. The Garda Inspectorate has not quantified the investment in money or manpower needed to implement its recommendations.

Meanwhile, the Independent Review Group which undertook a study of the Department of Justice has found that officials warned that they were being overburdened with work and lack of communications for two years before the meltdown that engulfed the department over the GSOC affair and the whistle-blower controversies. It is clear that while the public have full confidence in front-line gardai there are serious issues - such as training and systems - that need to be reviewed and done so at the earliest opportunity.

All mothers must be valued equally

Sometimes it is the simple thing that strikes a chord that transcends politics, interest groups and economics and gets to the heart of life in Ireland of today. Such was the Letter to the Editor written by Donna Hartnett. It starkly summed up the feelings of a modern mother faced with the dilemma of work and children.

“We work, breaking our necks and our children’s hearts trying to keep up with tax after tax with nothing left by month’s end,” she wrote. It is a sobering and thought-provoking idea about what we see as the future for our children.

Of course, there is a valid argument that children can be equally well adjusted, whether their mothers stay at home or go to work. But successive governments have geared tax policy towards incentivising mothers to work. But are they doing it simply to oil the wheels of the economy?

This is a debate that should not polarise opinion between working mothers and stay-at-home mothers. It is time that we did more research on the effects of creche life on our children and, more importantly, started to really value the work of all mothers and ensure they make choices right for themselves.

Irish Independent