Good police work involves gardaí using their own discretion, including “squaring” minor prosecutions for members of the public who gardaí may depend on when investigating more serious crimes, a former garda has claimed.
Fianna Fáil councillor Kevin Sheahan, who once provided protection for President Éamon de Valera, told a Joint Policing Committee (JPC) in Limerick that “squaring speeding cases” is often done to foster and maintain good relationships between gardaí and “certain members of the public”.
Mr Sheahan said gardaí “can’t afford, as a police force, to have much more anti-guard attitude out there among decent people”.
He added: “The other [thing] is, the speeding and the breathalysing, and the nonsense on the paper last week — and I’ll call it nonsense — about the members of An Garda Síochána squaring speeding cases.
“That’s often done to keep a good relationship between a member of An Garda Síochána and certain members of the public who are only too willing then, when the time comes, to help and co-operate with An Garda Síochána, to make an investigation a success.
“But a police force has to do that kind of thing. That should not be investigated. If it is investigated, they should find that it’s a positive thing for a policeman to square a case for somebody, if it is a minor case especially, to win the citizen’s friendship, loyalty, and commitment.”
Mr Sheahan said that gardaí have “limited resources”, and that the public are their eyes and ears on the ground.
“I’m going to say this, because the public are saying it,” he said.
“Too many resources have been poured into stopping people going to work in the morning and breathalysing them, and that’s the one that hurts a lot of the law-abiding citizens. Basically they’re good people and they become anti-guard.”
Mr Sheahan’s comments drew the ire of several other JPC members who asked chairman Adam Teskey of Fine Gael to put on the record that they did not want to be associated with Mr Sheahan’s remarks.
“Speak for yourself, in fairness,” Sinn Féin TD Maurice Quinlivan told Mr Sheehan.
Independent councillor Emmet O’Brien asked: “Is that the Fianna Fáil position?”
Fine Gael councillor Stephen Keary said: “I do not agree with giving Home Rule to any individual member of An Garda Siochána”.
Fianna Fáil TD for Limerick Niall Collins, who also attended the meeting, later said: “Everybody is equal before the law. If An Garda Síochána wish to exercise discretion within the confines of the law, that is a matter for An Garda Síochána.”