Garda Commissioner Drew Harris has defended an ongoing corruption probe into members of the Limerick Garda Division after a Government TD claimed it “is tearing many lives apart”.
At the Clare Joint Policing Committee (JPC) in Ennis, Mr Harris said he understands how a crime investigation is stressful for members of the force “but this work must be done”.
He was asked to respond to comments made by Fianna Fáil TD Cathal Crowe about the impact of the investigation into the alleged treatment by certain gardaí in Limerick of fixed charge penalties.
The commissioner said: “We must make sure that people can trust An Garda Siochána to be entirely trustworthy and honest in their dealings with them. Any of these investigations we undertake are essential for public confidence in the organisation but also that they are expedited and dealt with as quickly as possible.”
At the meeting, Mr Crowe told Mr Harris he has to move the investigation on “and needs to engage with this more effectively”.
Mr Crowe said eight members of the force in Limerick have been suspended as part of the Garda National Bureau of Criminal investigation probe “concerning a charge of corruption against many in the Limerick Garda division”.
He claimed that 60 gardaí in Limerick are being investigated about the alleged ‘squaring off’ of fixed charge penalty notices.
The Clare TD said the probe “encompasses too many people and is harrowing for the families involved”.
He told the commissioner that many of the gardaí are young and unable to progress in their career and transfer back to the station in their home patch “because there is a cloud of suspicion hanging over them”.
"If they are guilty they need to be found guilty and they need to face the sanctions that are appropriate but if they are not guilty they need that chance to be before a court and to prove themselves," the TD said.
Mr Harris said he is regularly updated on the investigation adding: “I am personally engaged with these matters”.
The commissioner said a process is in place where Fixed Charge Penalty Notices (FCPN) can be examined.
“The difficulty is the difference between discretion and preference. I would say to every member of An Garda Siochana that properly exercised discretion is available to you but make sure that it is not preference.”