Statement by Frances Fitzgerald TD, Minister for Justice and Equality in response to the Report by Mr. Seán Guerin SC
The findings of the report by Mr. Seán Guerin SC reaffirms that we must now enter a new era of policing in this country and that organisational reform and cultural change is essential.
The content and the findings of the report are extremely grave. The report finds fault with the adequacy of the performance of An Garda Síochána and the Department of Justice and Equality. I am also concerned at the comments in the report about GSOC and its relationship to the enquiry.
In Ireland, the law is for everyone. And everyone is equally accountable before it.
We will ensure that we have a fair and functional system where genuine allegations of wrongdoing are treated in an effective and accountable manner.
I am determined to introduce a comprehensive set of measures and reforms to ensure confidence in An Garda Síochána; to address systemic failings in the oversight and accountability of the force; and to support the men and women of An Garda Síochána who play such a vital role in keeping our communities safe.
These measures and reforms include:
· A Commission of Investigation will be established arising from this report. This Commission will provide a forum where the complaints made by Sgt. McCabe can be fully addressed;
· A new independent Garda authority will be established to exercise effective oversight of the Garda Síochána. I will be bringing forward comprehensive legislative proposals to the new Cabinet Committee on Justice Reform to establish this authority;
· The Protected Disclosures Bill, which was brought forward by the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, is being amended to enable the Garda Ombudsman Commission to receive reports from Garda whistleblowers and to independently investigate them;
· The Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality are currently examining the adequacy of GSOC’s legislative framework, and I look forward to their recommendations.
Today’s report is clear that operational policies and procedures within An Garda Síochána were inadequate in the cases examined; including with respect to performance and professional standards, consistency of approach, recording and management and supervision of individual cases. The report further raises fundamental questions about the treatment and response to victims of crime which must be addressed as a matter of priority.
I have today met with the interim Garda Commissioner Noirín O’Sullivan and we have discussed a range of issues. I welcome the fact that Commissioner O’Sullivan has already signalled the need for a sea change in the culture of the Force. She will have my full support in doing whatever is necessary to achieve this.
I view with the utmost gravity the concerns raised by Mr. Guerin about procedures for dealing with complaints in my Department. I intend to ensure that the issues raised are dealt with comprehensively and robustly. The Secretary General of my Department will ensure that the handing of complaints received by the Department meets with best practice in receiving and responding to complaints.
This report will be debated in the Dáil next week and I look forward to listening to Deputies from all sides of the House.
I am aware that these are difficult times for An Garda Síochána but I believe our communities recognise from their own experiences the valuable and very important work done by members of the Force day in day out. The process of reform which is underway; and which I will lead, is intended to support the men and women of An Garda Síochána in carrying out that work.
9th May, 2014