‘Blue wall’ among gardaí to testify against colleagues

THE Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman has warned that gardaí may be reluctant to give evidence against their colleagues when under investigation.

Speaking in the University of Limerick, Nuala O’Loan, warned the newly appointed Garda ombudsman’s office of a “blue wall”.

Ms O’Loan said: “Some difficulties will translate. One of these is called the blue wall. It is the tendency of those who are in particular policing situations to stand together and deny that anything has happened or do not wish to give evidence against their colleagues.”

She described the problem as a misguided loyalty.

“To my mind, a police officer has statutory duties on the floor. If a police officer witnesses something wrong, then he should report that. It is not snitching or any of these stupid words. To do so is actually acting in accordance with the law. Be loyal to the law,” said Ms O’Loan.

She has encountered the so-called ‘blue wall’ on many occasions.

Ms O’Loan said: “Sometimes it has happened in very difficult circumstances where you have to be quite robust in order to get where you need to go.”

She said the establishment of Ombudsman’s office in the south would in fact protect members of the garda force.

“The important thing to remember is that this is a protection for the force and if they are doing their job right, there is no problem. It will vindicate their actions on so many occasions but it does mean that if things go wrong, they will be investigated and robustly investigated,” she added.

Her office assisted authorities in the establishment of the Garda Ombudsman’s office.

“We worked with them very closely when they were in the set-up phase.

“They took a lot of our material in terms of our investigations and manuals.

“I think the key to it is to have the determination to use your powers to fulfil the task and never to be afraid of publishing evidence.

“Never take into account the political consequences of what you are doing because if you do, you become partial. If you become partial, you cease to become independent and have the integrity that you need,” she said.

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