Senior management attempted to blame poor training, confusion, cutbacks and a lack of supervision on the test fiasco — but the excuses were deemed as not credible by members of the Oireachtas justice committee. The separate scandal of motorists wrongly penalised for driving offences has also resulted in almost €1m being paid back to drivers.
And despite gardaí claiming yesterday there was no evidence of career advancement in the force over falsely inflating breath test numbers, Labour’s Brendan Howlin declared responsibility must be taken. The lack of accountability within the gardaí was “extremely disappointing”, he said, adding: “The whole series of events which we have seen week in and week out is extremely disappointing and demoralising for thousands of men and women who wear the uniform with pride.”
Senior management were quizzed by committee members yesterday about fake breath test numbers, how checkpoints worked. and results were recorded.
Assistant Commissioner Michael O’Sullivan, who completed an internal report on the tests scandal, revealed the force had found during its investigation that testing figures were “out of kilter” by some 6m at one point.
Fianna Fáil justice spokesman Jim O’Callaghan asked him if gardaí had offered very general numbers “20, 30 maybe 40” when asked by a call taker at the Garda Information Services Centre (GISC) in Castlebar, Mayo, about how many cars had passed through checkpoints.
Mr O’Sullivan said the centre took such calls and recordings were available dating to 2010, but it would take 21 years to listen to them all. He claimed there was a lot of confusion from the recordings of the calls between gardaí ringing in data from the roadside and the call takers.
“There were two different interpretations, two conflicting manuals in existence. One at GISC and one with the operational guards. Because there was two interpretations on how figures were to be recorded and we heard on many instances about disagreeing on what numbers should go into what box on the Pulse incident [recording system]. In fact at one stage the figures were 6m of out kilter.”
Mr O’Sullivan later said the figure was 6.4m, but this was a recording issue and not falsified, unlike the 1.5m tests which it has already been established were faked by gardaí.
Acting Garda Commissioner Dónall Ó Cualáin admitted that no gardaí had been disciplined yet over the breath test scandal. He added: “Where people have been found to have done something wrong, they will be held to account, regardless of their rank.”
Nonetheless, Mr Ó Cualáin said there was no evidence that senior management knew about the widespread falsification of breath test data.
“There’s nothing to suggest otherwise,” he said.
This contradicts claims by rank-and-file gardaí.
Mr Ó Cualáin said the Policing Authority’s report on the scandal, to be submitted in two weeks, will advise what action should be taken.
Independent TD Clare Daly said there was a bigger scandal than the fake breath tests and questioned whether the alcohol checkpoints for drivers were actually set up by some gardaí.
She said there was no evidence to show checkpoints had been invalidated, other than details given by gardaí over the phone.
Mr Ó Cualáin said his biggest concern or “red flag” was if any damage had been done to the relationship between gardaí and communities. He was asked about whether he would put himself forward for the new commissioner position, but declined to answer this.