The largest garda staff association has accused the Government of "knee- jerk" politics in pushing through "inordinate and undue" new powers for the Garda Ombudsman.
The Garda Representative Association has called for the proposals, published by Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald a fortnight ago, to be put on hold pending a proper examination and clarity about the accountability of GSOC’s commissioners.
GRA general secretary PJ Stone criticised GSOC for failing to supply files in time to the Guerin review — which examined Sergeant Maurice McCabe’s allegations — and failing to mention instances of physical surveillance to an Oireachtas committee.
He accused GSOC of being “hypocritical” in complaining about gardaí bringing solicitors to interviews, while it did the same in interviews with retired High Court justice John Cooke.
Writing in the GRA journal the Garda Review, Mr Stone called on the Government to await the findings of various commissions of investigation and the root-and-branch review of the force under the Haddington Road agreement before “the harried and reflex piecemeal reconstruction of the justice sector”.
In his editorial, entitled ‘Fools rush in’, he strongly criticised the Government for publishing the heads of new legislation increasing the powers of GSOC “without proper public debate or stakeholder consultation”.
The laws being proposed will give GSOC power to conduct surveillance on gardaí and access their communications. They will also be able to investigate the garda commissioner and examine garda procedures.
“Our fear is that the new legislation will be pushed through by a political elite in a knee-jerk reaction before any real problems have been isolated,” said Mr Stone.
“There are appropriate powers held by GSOC investigators, but several of the proposals are inordinate and undue: such misplaced government urgency has overridden the careful consideration such powers demand.
“We urge caution on extending GSOC powers until we have clarity to whom the GSOC commissioners are accountable.”
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