By Gordon Deegan
There are currently 35 members of the Gardai on long term suspensions from the force including two members suspended for periods between six and 10 years.
New figures provided by the Gardai in response to a Freedom of Information (FOI) request show as part of the 35 total, eight members are suspended for between three and six years with the remaining 25 suspended for periods up to three years.
The Garda FOI unit stressed that the 35 on suspension doesn’t include Gardai on short term suspensions who have been suspended for short term periods when for example a member is suspended for a day or part of while they may be subject of court proceedings.
The FOI unit stated that it should be further noted that the numbers of members on suspension in An Garda Siochana vary, sometimes on a day to day basis, as investigations are progressed or finalised.
On the reasons why members may be suspended for three years and more, the Garda FOI unit stated this includes the fact that some of the members are still subject of criminal proceedings before the courts whether by way of awaiting trial or awaiting an appeal before the courts.
The FOI Unit stated: “In addition, a number of members are also currently pursuing Judicial Review proceedings before the High Court in relation to discipline matters and remain suspended pending the outcome of those proceedings and subsequent conclusion of discipline proceedings."
Spokesperson for the Garda Representative Association (GRA), John O’Keeffe today hit out at the length of time some Gardai have been suspended from duty.
He said: “Delay defeats equity and there is no greater example than a six year delay, which does a disservice not just to the member and his/her family but to the disciplinary mechanisms of the entire Force.
He said: “Such delays are entirely avoidable if the basic rules of fairness and natural justice are adhered to as well as normative employment practices - as would be the case in any organisation.”
Mr O’Keeffe said that equally unacceptable to delays in the disciplinary process “are delays that occur within the court system where fairness may then be lost for the member, their families and indeed the tax payer”.
The Garda FOI unit further stated that one Garda was dismissed in 2017
In relation to the 35 under long term suspension, the FOI unit declined to state what rank, the specific duration of the suspension period or the reasons for suspension.
The FOI unit explained: “I am refusing to provide details of rank and specific suspension as I believe the individuals involved will become easily identifiable beyond their family and friends and it would be considered a breach of the confidentiality upon which the information is being held by the Gardai.”
The FOI unit stated that the release of such a small number of incidents, such as rank and suspension period, which is specific to each individual, will allow for a person to become identifiable and possibly be named in the public domain.
As a result of a deal struck by the GRA, since January of last year, members who are suspended due to disciplinary action are, are now in receipt of full payment of their salary.
Mr O’Keeffe said: “This was negotiated by the GRA because many of its suspended members were suffering undue financial hardship due to the inordinate delays it was and is taking to complete internal disciplinary investigations.