Trust of Gardai in the Garda Siochána Ombudsman Commission must be restored

Speech by Dan Neville TD on Garda Siochána (Amendment) Bill – Dail Eireann – 17th July 2013
Deputy Dan Neville: I welcome the opportunity to contribute to this debate. It is important that we look at concerns gardaí have in respect of Garda Siochána Ombudsman Commission and I wish to put their concerns on the record. I am speaking for rank-and-file gardaí at the coalface instead of those up along the line, namely, the officers. The main body which represents this organisation is the Garda Representative Association which has repeatedly welcomed independent and impartial investigation of complaints relating to their members. However, the Garda Siochana Ombudsman Commission has failed to establish trust with the gardaí at the coalface. We must also take into account that there is a difficulty relating to the trust the Garda on the beat has in that organisation.
Why do members not trust the impartiality and fairness of investigations by the GSOC? I am not saying they it unfair or not impartial but why is the trust in their fairness and impartiality not there? Why is the GSOC concerned about a Garda attending with their lawyer present? Surely they have the same rights as any citizen under scrutiny in a criminal investigation? Not all of these investigations are criminal ones. Why is the GSOC concerned because surely every citizen has the right to be represented? Why are there no sanctions for those who make vexatious and malicious statements and accusations regarding members of An Garda Síochána operating at the coalface? The pressure on somebody waiting for a consideration of their position, their status within the organisation and their well-being in having to face this situation is quite serious so surely there should be some way of identifying or dealing with people who make proven vexatious and malicious complaints against individual gardaí. Will the Minister respond to the Garda Representative Association’s request for a full investigation by an external agency to restore confidence within the Garda?
The most common complaints refer to discourtesy or abuse of authority by gardaí. Surely an informal approach should be used to restore that situation? If that does not work, one can go back to the formal situation rather than blocking up the system. We need to restore trust between the Garda and the Garda Siochana Ombudsman Commission.