Garda reform: Action needed, not fine words

When Drew Harris took over as Garda commissioner last September, expectations were high that major reform within the force would quickly follow. 

He has already made substantial operational changes, including a major reshuffle of senior ranks, and a campaign to recruit ethic minorities, but the force’s longstanding culture of conformity, silence and a “cover your back” mentality, remains to be tackled.

As the latest report by the Policing Authority reveals, a lot of work needs to be done to modernise the force and make it fit for purpose. 

In its report, the authority accused Garda management of repeatedly “over-promising and under delivering”, concluding that change has not “landed” at the frontline. 

It found that the majority of the recommendations in the force’s modernisation programme, Changing Policing in Ireland, which was adopted by the Government in July 2016, remain outstanding.

Most worrying of all, the authority says the lack of a strategic vision has “bedevilled” the implementation of change.

A recent innovation by Mr Harris came in the form of an open letter to frontline gardaí in which he urged them to engage in reforms and to remember that they serve the people of Ireland — not the organisation. 

“We are here to serve the people; not ourselves. Not the organisation; the people,” he wrote in an article in the Garda Review magazine.

It will take more than fine words to make that happen.

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