The New Independent Policing Authority has delivered a deeply critical appraisal of An Garda Síochána, expressing “serious concern” at its treatment of victims, “dismay at the familiarity of performance failures”, and “deep unease at the organisation and management culture” within the force, writes Daniel McConnell.
Following a four hour meeting with Garda Commissioner Noirín O'Sullivan, the authority released a lengthy statement on Thursday night.
Ms O'Sullivan was quizzed about the recent transcripts, published in the Irish Examiner, which showed her legal counsel were instructed to challenge the motivations of Garda whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe.
The authority made it clear that intends to take a hardline approach with Garda management over major failings in policing.
In a major step, the authority is to haul Ms O'Sullivan and her top management team before it twice next month in public session, to address the crisis of confidence in the force.
In its statement, the new Authority has demanded that the Garda management team respond as a matter of “urgency” to the findings of the O’Higgins commission.
It has also demanded the publication of the Garda’s public attitudes survey which the force had “referenced in many meetings”.
Its “protected disclosure policy” for whistle blowing should also be published “at the earliest possible date”, the authority said.
The authority has demanded that Commissioner O’Sullivan to engage “an external provider” to oversee a modernisation plan for the force.
The response to the O’Higgins commission report “must then be reflected” in the Garda’s strategy statement 2016-2018 to come before the authority in coming weeks.
The remarks were made after members of the authority met with Commissioner O’Sullivan in Dublin on Thursday to discuss the fall-out from the final report of Mr Justice Kevin O’Higgins.
It said is was concerned at recent revelations but at the repetition of Garda shortcomings raised by the Morris Tribunal more than a decade ago and in repeated Garda Inspectorate reports more recently.
In her comments, Chairperson of the authority Josephine Feehily described as “deeply troubling” the “recurring deficiencies” in the Garda’s performance highlighted by Mr Justice O’Higgins.
“We wish to express our particular concern for the impact on the victims of crime who were entitled to expect a professional and competent service from the Garda Síochána and who didn’t get it,” she said.
While she welcomed Commissioner O’Sullivan’s apology to victims and the acceptance of the O’Higgins commission’s findings and the acknowledgement of lessons learned, it was looking for tangible reforms arising from those words.
“Today was just a first step in this oversight process and there is clearly a lot of work to be done,” Ms Feehily said.
It is understood that the meeting, where nine members of the authority quizzed Commissioner O’Sullivan and her team, lasted for more than twice the scheduled two hours.
The authority said the failure of Garda management to deal more quickly with unanswered questions in the wake of the O’Higgins report was in danger of setting “to nought” the good work done by gardaí on the ground.
The authority was also concerned about Garda resourcing and would examine the capacity of the Garda to recruit and train more officers.