The Garda oversight body has come in for unprecedented criticism by the Oireachtas justice committee for the manner in which it treated two civilian analysts who contacted it regarding concerns about Garda homicide figures.
Over a three-and-a-half-hour meeting, the head of the Policing Authority, Josephine Feehily, was put under intense pressure for its dealings with the deputy head of the Garda Analysis Service, Lois West, and senior analyst Laura Galligan.
Committee members told Ms Feehily that when the analysts appeared before the committee a fortnight ago, they said they felt “let down” and “undermined” by the authority in, firstly, not responding appropriately to their concerns and, secondly, they “told tales” by informing Garda management they had contacted the authority.
The pair told the committee they were “attacked” and “belittled” by senior Garda management and put under “significant pressure” to sign off on a homicide report they knew was “completely inaccurate” and “misleading”.
Ms Feehily said the authority had behaved “professionally and appropriately” with the analysts. She said it assured them their concerns were well known to the authority and they were pressing the matter with Garda management.
At the end of April 2017, Garda management presented the authority with what they described as a report on Garda homicide classifications, indicating that matters had been resolved.
The analysts had been on the Garda review team examining the figures but had not been consulted on the report.
Earlier in April, Ms West rang the authority and asked could she and her colleague meet them in a forthcoming meeting with the Garda Analysis Service.
Ms Feehily rejected claims this request was ignored and said the pair were told while they could attend the meeting as part of the Garda delegation, it was up to the commissioner to decide who was on it.
Ms Feehily said, in a second phonecall from Ms West, she was told the authority was “live” to their concerns and assured they were on their agenda.
Ms West sent a detailed letter to the authority in June but insisted it treat the letter with confidence, which Ms Feehily said they did.
Ms Feehily described the treatment of the analysts by gardaí — as they presented to the committee — as “deplorable and very concerning”.
Her description of it as an “employment matter” drew criticism from many members, including Independents4Change TD Clare Daly who accused her of “downplaying” the issue.
Ms Daly, along with all members, put it to Ms Feehily that they should have met the analysts.
Ms Feehily said the authority was a “regulatory” body for the entire organisation and could not act as an arbiter in internal disputes.
She insisted the concerns the analysts were bringing “were already known to us”.
The analysts told the committee they felt “undermined” when, last August, a Garda manager told Ms West they had been informed by the authority about the contacts.
Ms Feehily said it was “well known” the analysts had been in contact with the authority and it was not confidential.
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