Gsoc: We’ll fail to meet our obligations without more staff

Mary Ellen Ring.

The Garda Ombudsman has bluntly told the justice minister that if its staffing is not significantly increased it would “undoubtedly result” in the organisation’s failure to meet its obligations to the public.

Gsoc has sought an additional 37 staff, at an annual cost of €1.7m, which it said represented “good financial value” considering the cost of tribunals into garda matters.

Speaking before the Oireachtas justice committee, Gsoc chair Judge Mary Ellen Ring also said:

  • Only two of its requested 12 staff to man a new protected disclosure unit within Gsoc will be in place by next Monday, with two more “in the pipeline”.
  • It would not be able to conduct its investigation into financial concerns regarding an EU-funded programme at the Garda College in Templemore without the assistance of garda volunteers — the first time it has requested Garda assistance.
  • There were continuing problems in accessing documentation from gardaí, which was due to a “distrust” in Gsoc’s work, a lack of guidance from management or pressures of work, and that the variation in responses was “very frustrating”.
  • Gsoc wants the legal power to investigate members after they retire and the power to seek a deferral of retirements requests pending an investigation.
  • That it was time to “cut the umbilical cord” between Gsoc and the Department of Justice and to become fully independent.

Judge Ring said she had met with Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan this month and made a business case for the short and medium term, as well as a long-term case.

“One of the main concerns is building up a team of operational investigators adaptable enough to allow Gsoc deal with the unexpected,” she told the committee.

She said they sought 37 extra staff in the short to medium term, 24 of which would be for the investigations/operations side and 13 in administrative back-up, including one for data protection.

She said the estimated cost was €1.7m per year and told the minister that given the amount of money spent on tribunals investigating garda matters that this represented “good financial value”.

Gsoc has approval for 94 staff and currently has 89 staff, with two more joining next Monday.

The requested increase of 37 staff would represent a jump of 40% in staffing complement.

Fianna Fáil justice spokesman Jim O’Callaghan read from the GSOC business case.

“It said: ‘A decision not to increase GSOC staffing resources at this crucial time will undoubtedly result in the organisation’s failure to meet its obligations to the public and its staff’.”

Ms Ring cited the example of their investigation into the use of EU training funds at Templemore College, saying they could not carry out that inquiry without outside expertise.

“We made it clear to the mMinister last year that without the assistance of gardaí we could not have undertaken the Templemore investigation.”

She said it was the first time Gsoc had to request garda assistance for its own investigation.

Five gardaí are taking part in the review as well as an accountant from Revenue, whose secondment ends next week.


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