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Submission to Oireachtas Committee on Justice and Defence on Garda Reform

Review of Garda Síochána Act 2005 and related legislation - Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality hearings

TI Ireland shared its views with the Oireachtas Justice Committee on what changes need to be made to the Garda Siochana Act to address the risk of abuse and corruption in the future.

Transparency International Ireland Opening Statement

Good morning and many thanks for your invitation to address the Committee. I am here with my colleague, Susheela Math, who is Transparency International Ireland’s Legal Counsellor. 

In support of its mission to promote accountability and open government, TI Ireland launched its Speak Up helpline in May 2011, a service for anyone facing an ethical dilemma or considering reporting wrongdoing at work.  TII has served some 400 clients since its launch. More recently, it has advised the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform on the Protected Disclosures Bill and provided assistance and support to Garda whistleblowers, John Wilson and Sergeant Maurice McCabe. 

Our submission is largely informed by our engagement with our clients and research we have undertaken into safeguards against corruption since 2007. The key points made in our submission to the Committee are as follows:

1. TII welcomes the Government’s intention to establish an independent Garda Authority.

2. TII welcomes the promise to reform Garda oversight measures and recommends that the Minister’s functions under the 2005 Act be transferred to the new Garda Authority.  Such changes would bring Ireland in line with other jurisdictions such as Northern Ireland and help address the risk and perception of political or undue Executive interference in policing.  The new Garda Authority’s powers should include the power to commission inspections and inquiries by the Garda Síochána Inspectorate.  

3. TII recommends that members of An Garda Síochána should be able to make disclosures to those prescribed under section 62(4) of the 2005 Act, as well as the Confidential Recipient and the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission, without the fear of disciplinary action.

4. TII recommends that the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission be strengthened by the provision of a statutory right to access the PULSE database and the power to investigate reports made under Regulation 7(2) of the Garda Síochána (Confidential Reporting of Corruption or Malpractice) Regulations 2007 against the Commissioner.

5. TII submits that the Garda Síochána Inspectorate be given the power to confer a discretion upon the Inspectorate to commission its own inspections and inquiries where it considers it to be in the public interest to do so.

6. TII recommends that the post of Confidential Recipient be retained and enhanced, with an open recruitment process and that consideration be given to the establishment of an Office of Confidential Recipient with adequate civilian support to enable professional advice and support to Garda whistleblowers before and after disclosing concerns.

We are happy to answer any questions arising from our written submissions or covering letter.