Claims of pressure on gardaí rejected by management

Senior gardai have denied they knew of the widescale falsification of alcohol breath test data, contradicting claims by rank-and-file gardaí that management applied pressure to inflate figures.

Acting Garda Commissioner Dónall Ó Cualáin

The flat denial by top officers puts them on a collision course with ordinary gardai, after the Garda Representative Association has left the blame with senior and middle force members.

Refusals by the force to own up as to how some 1.5m breath tests were made up saw frustrated TDs claim either “inept” managers or “collusion” was to blame for the bogus test recordings.

Acting Garda Commissioner Dónall Ó Cualáin insisted there was “no evidence” to suggest that senior management had sought to inflate breath test data.

A recent Garda internal report found bogus breath tests were put on the Pulse database because of recording issues, potential inflation of numbers and estimations, and they have rejected claims false data was being created by officers to enhance their career prospects.

The GRA claims pressure was applied on ordinary members and comes ahead of a conference of 300 senior gardaí today on internal conflict resolution in the force.

Mr Ó Cualáin now says his management has sought names and evidence following the accusation from a spokesperson for the GRA.

“We have asked Assistant Commissioner O’Sullivan to go back and seek any evidence and names of people who we can then establish exactly have an evidence trail — and be able to go to those people and get their version of what is being put out there: that management in some way were putting pressure on frontline members.”

The revelations about the gross exaggeration of drink-driving checks from 2009 to 2016 included 3,498,400 breath test records on Pulse when only 2,040,179 were actually carried out.

The committee was told it would take 21 years to listen back to the 502,000 calls reporting numbers to the Garda Information Services Centre in Castlebar.

Fine Gael TD Colm Brophy questioned how the falsification of alcohol testing data for motorists took place over so many years-without the knowledge of gardai at the top. Either management were “so inept” they did not pick up on the fact test numbers were being overstated or they “colluded together” on inflating testing numbers, he said.

Mr Brophy told the acting commissioner he did not believe rank-and-file gardaí inflated testing numbers and continued to do so of their own volition and without it being noticed. Mr Brophy said it was “a very self-serving mistake” that all of the errors for the mandatory checkpoints resulted in testing numbers being inflated.

“People didn’t decide to record a zero entry... they came back in and made up an enlarged figure to make everyone look better.”

He said all it would have taken was a small number of Garda managers with “real integrity” to notice what was happening and call a stop to the fake data recording.

Mr Ó Cualáin admitted no gardai had been disciplined yet over the breath test scandal. But he added: “Where people have been found to have done something wrong, they will be held to account, regardless of their rank.”

However, Independent TD Clare Daly said there was a bigger scandal than the fake breath tests and questioned whether checkpoints for drivers were actually set up by some gardai.

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