Implementation plan for Garda anti-corruption report still awaited one year on

Implementation plan for Garda anti-corruption report still awaited one year on

Helen McEntee, the justice minister: Plans to implement the Garda Inspectorate report have 'taken longer' than expected. Picture: Conor Ó Mearáin

The Department of Justice has still not developed a plan to implement the recommendations of a report on the threat of corruption in An Garda Síochána — more than a year after it was published.

Helen McEntee, the justice minister, said that her department’s plan to implement the Garda Inspectorate report had “taken longer” than expected and that she would have liked for it to be completed by now.

The inspectorate’s Countering the Threat of Internal Corruption was published in March 2021. Its focus was on structures, strategies, and attitudes to corruption, rather than an examination of specific instances of corruption.

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris placed the issue of corruption as one of his top priorities after assuming office in September 2018.

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris: Established an anti-corruption unit in November 2020. Picture: Conor Ó Mearáin
Garda Commissioner Drew Harris: Established an anti-corruption unit in November 2020. Picture: Conor Ó Mearáin

He established the anti-corruption unit (ACU) in November 2020, which was charged with investigating potentially corrupt activities and designing policies to prevent corruption.

In its findings, the inspectorate report, said:

  • Corruption threat posed by gardaí who abuse their power for sexual gain is “poorly grasped” in An Garda Síochána;
  • The Department of Justice should make the abuse of power for sexual gain by gardaí a breach of the European Convention on Human Rights and requiring an independent investigation;
  • It was “critical” that vetting procedures were improved and that checks expanded considerably to include European criminal records, Revenue offences, credit checks, financial intelligence, social media, military records, etc;
  • Use of illicit drugs was a “serious concern” among gardaí and the organisation should introduce drug testing;
  • A “senior police leader” or anti-corruption supremo should be appointed to take overall charge for countering corruption;
  • An all-powerful anti-corruption unit should be able to monitor live all Garda information and communication technology and devices, and have “sufficient resources” to gather intelligence and conduct investigations.

'Predominantly honest'

At the publication, Chief Inspector Mark Toland said it was clear that the Garda workforce was “predominantly honest and performs its duties with integrity” but that, such was the “corrosive nature” of corruption, there was no room for complacency.

After the report, Commissioner Harris cited the establishment of the ACU; the publication of a strategic threat and risk assessment; and the development of policies on anti-corruption, substance misuse, professional boundaries and abuse of power for sexual gain.

He pointed out that some of the recommendations required investment in ICT infrastructure and legislation.

Implementation delay

Asked in the Dáil by Sinn Féin justice spokesperson Martin Kenny why there was a delay in the implementation plan, Ms McEntee said there had been “extensive engagement” between her department and An Garda Síochána on the development of a specific implementation plan.

She said this would address all 34 recommendations in the inspectorate’s report. She said discussions were at an “advanced stage” with broad agreement on actions for each recommendation.

“It is expected that the plan will be brought to Government and published shortly,” she said. “It will certainly be done before the summer recess.”

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