Gardaí call for end to political gagging

Rank-and-file gardaí have called on Garda management to open up to the public so it can see the force is “not a secretive or suppressive organisation”.

In a submission to an external review of the force, seen by the Irish Examiner, the Garda Representative Association (GRA) said police bosses must stop looking for “permission to speak from a political master”.

The GRA said continuing dialogue with the public — including the rebuttal of unfounded criticism — was “the first step to inspiring public confidence and rehabilitating the corporate reputation of the organisation”.

The Garda Inspectorate is conducting a detailed review of the structure of An Garda Síochána under the Had-dington Road Agreement.

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In its 50-page submission to the Garda Inspectorate, the GRA said:

  • Lack of supervision was a “major concern” and that it was “increasingly common” for members of garda rank to supervise probationary gardaí and probationers were often “left unsupervised to conduct investigations”;
  • Frontline gardaí were not trained to provide social services or psychiatric care and vulnerable people should not be detained in inappropriate buildings;
  • Risk assessment of gardaí by management was “largely ignored” with a “wanton disregard for public safety”;
  • Gardaí are often removed from the frontline because they can not hand over cases quickly to community police or detectives;
  • The GRA is “increasingly disillusioned” with the regional command structure, describing it as “impotent” and “another layer of management without utility”.

The GRA submission attacked the Guerin Report, saying it “singled out junior members” for criticism when members were placed in situations they were “neither equipped nor competent” to deal with.

It said garda management had to revolutionise its communication culture: “There must be open and continual dialogue with the public, so that they can see that we are not a secretive or suppressive organisation.”

It said that the force had “often withdrawn into a defensive closed position” so as not to become embroiled in politics.

“To be more open and accountable in responding to requests from responsible journalists is the key to restoring public confidence and garda morale.”

It said the Garda Press Office is often “restricted” when the force came under scrutiny, but laid the blame on Garda bosses: “This is the responsibility of our leadership to explain the situation as it happens in a timely and responsible manner.

“The organisation cannot look for permission to speak from a political master. As it stands, too many careers are dependent upon political interference.

“We must accept criticism where it is due — and issue a rebuttal each and every time it is unfounded. This is but the first step to inspiring public confidence and rehabilitating the corporate reputation of the organisation.”

The document rejected claims in academic and media circles that there was a “blue wall of silence” among gardaí when allegations were made.

The submission repeated a call for an “optimum numbers” survey and recommended targeted recruitment of non-Irish nationals, people from the LGBT community, and Travellers. There should also be targeted recruitment of people with specialist skills, such as languages, computing, and forensic accounting.

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