Bitter exchanges in the Dail between Pat Rabitte and Michael McDowell.
Minister for Justice Michael McDowell angrily denied he had wanted to sack Garda Commissioner Noel Conroy.
The denial came amid heated Dail exchanges with Labour leader Pat Rabbitte, who had asked Taoiseach Bertie Ahern if the Minister had sought to remove the commissioner.
“That is an outrageous allegation,” said Mr McDowell, who was sitting on the Government benches. “There is no substance in it. The deputy has no principles.” Mr Rabbitte said he had not made any allegation. “I asked a question and I am very interested in the impact it has on the Minister.” Mr McDowell said it was a question similar to “when did you stop beating your wife?”.
The full debate can be read here.
Given that Gardai can’t really be sacked – no matter how corrupt or criminal they are found to be, this on the surface seems like good news. But I seriously doubt it will ever actually be used, afterall the acts carried out in Donegal by Gardai don’t get much more serious – and no one has been sacked.
The significant new powers, described as “revolutionary” by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, are likely to provoke fury among the Garda Representative Association and the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors.
Once the powers are implemented, the commissioner will be able to bypass long-running disciplinary appeals rules and sack gardaa if their presence in the force “undermines public confidence”. Five gardaa sharply criticised by the Morris tribunal have been transferred to the Garda headquarters in Dublin from Donegal, but they have yet to face disciplinary proceedings.
Last night on the Week in Politics the Garda Representative Association General Secretary, PJ Stone said that the association had been wrong in the past to advise Donegal members not to account for their actions. He is saying now that:
Those who are going out to Mr Justice Morris to give evidence, we are saying to them through our solicitor, give an accurate and full and honest account of the issue relating to your duties in Donegal
Isn’t it mad that we live in a country where the investigating body that investigates Gardai, is essentially run by the Gardai, and that it cannot compel any Garda to give evidence? I am looking forward to seeing the full text of McDowells new Garda Bill.
The Irish Examiner also reports on the story.
Yea, 9 months. The Garda Complaints Board received a complaint in February 1999, the complaint was not acted upon until November 1999.
Mark McConnell, a cousin of Frank McBrearty Jnr, complained that he was being set up by Gardai.
It’s an interesting story alright:
In September 2000 a constituent of [TD] Mr Dick Roche came to him alleging he had been beaten by gardaa the previous night following a disturbance at a birthday party at a hotel in Dublin’s south inner city. Michael Gaffney (18), from Bray, showed Mr Roche bruises and other marks on his body.
Mr Roche drew up a statement, and sent it to the then minister for justice John O’Donoghue. This was sent on to the then Garda commissioner Pat Byrne. However, while Mr Byrne appointed a member of the force to compile a file for the complaints board, this member decided to exclude Mr Roche’s statement.
Mr Holmes only learned of the existence of the statement after Mr Roche spoke about it in a special Prime Time programme last year. Mr Roche was “astonished” by the handling of his statement.
But apparently such a thing cannot happen again:
Mr Holmes was not satisfied with this explanation. “He [ Mr Roche] wasn’t just making representations, as you often find, he was actually a witness. He saw the person the next day, and saw the marks etc that were on that person. There are witnesses who were involved and he wasn’t involved, so his evidence would have carried more weight with us.
“Certainly, as a matter of practice, an investigating officer should not remove a statement from a person, from anybody, least of all from a very responsible deputy, from a file they are sending down to us.”
However, he was glad to see a protocol had been drawn up to prevent the same situation arising again. The case was highlighted in the 2004 annual report of the Garda Complaints Board yesterday.
A protocol? Hmm.
The ‘Blue Wall’ is what Gordon Holmes calls it. The fact that, currently, a Garda cannot be compelled by a superior to talk. From the IT:
The Minister for Justice Michael McDowell is to introduce legislation which would compel gardaa to account for their actions when asked to do so by their superiors.
News that all members of the force are to lose their right to silence comes as the chairman of the Garda Complaints Board, Gordon Holmes, said investigations by the board were frequently met with a wall of silence, “a problem internationally known as the Blue Wall”.
It goes on:
Justice Morris said some gardaa believed that before accounting for their movements to a superior officer they had the right to consult their solicitor, their staff representative association or that they had the right to remain silent on constitutional grounds. This was not acceptable, Mr McDowell said.
“It is my intention to make it very, very clear in the legislation … that there is an absolute duty running from the very top to the very bottom of An Garda Saochana to be wholly accountable for the way in which you discharge the functions that you do. That will be written in large letters for everyone to see and for nobody to deny.”
Mr McDowell said the 5 per cent increase in the number of complaints received by the Garda Complaints Board last year was not a significant increase.
But then the complaints system has been known to be inadequate for so long, I doubt the figures published reflect the real figure. Just like crime figures, not everything is reported. And I would imagine that things being the way they are for so long, most people wouldn’t see the point in going near the Garda Complaints Board.