Politics has to be taken out of policing to protect it from Government interference, middle-ranking gardaí have said.
The Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors said the Government and the justice minister have too much power over the force.
General secretary Joe Dirwan said an independent police authority — such as that in the North — should be set up to replace the powers and functions held by the Government.
Speaking at the AGSI annual conference, Mr Dirwan said the Government decides whether vacancies, from sergeant rank upwards, are filled, which Garda stations are to close, and how many.
“I want to take politics out of the equation,” Mr Dirwan said. “While government have a say over appointments in An Garda Síochána above superintendent level, there will always be that perception there that people are not being promoted on merit.
“We have to accept there is some interference in so far as promotions are not being filled, vacancies are not being filled.”
Mr Dirwan said that the Government’s role had to be removed to make the system more open and transparent.
“I think the [Garda Síochána] 2005 Act gives too much political power to the minister for justice and that should be removed. There should be full independence in policing and I believe that can only come through the policing authority.”
Mr Dirwan said the Government, and particularly the Department of Public Expenditure, had a say over promotions. “That has a huge effect on operational matters. That is not just in the higher ranks, it is right down to the lower ranks.”
He said there were now up to 200 vacancies at sergeant and inspector ranks. “The organisation could survive without a superintendent or a chief superintendent but it cannot survive without its sergeants.”
Mr Dirwan said the recently published Mahon Tribunal report criticised gardaí for failing to properly investigate dramatic allegations of corruption and bribery involving politicians, including the now deceased TD Liam Lawlor.
The tribunal said it was likely that Mr Lawlor’s position as a TD was a factor in the decision taken by gardaí not to interview him.
“I’m not saying anything untoward happened there, but there needs to be more transparency,” said Mr Dirwan.
He pointed out that adverse tribunal findings had now been made against two former justice ministers, Padraig Flynn and Ray Burke.
The AGSI official said the Government should not decide how many Garda stations there should be and what ones should close, and that this power should remain with the commissioner.
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