THE ongoing stream of revelations about alleged malpractices in An Garda Síochána continues to undermine the credibility of the force and one has to question, at this stage, if its senior management has the capability to sort out the monumental mess it finds itself in. Some of it pre-dates the tenure of under-fire Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan, but there are lot of issues that she should be held responsible for, if true, such as the exaggerated breath test statistics and the lack of proper financial accountability at the Garda Training College in Templemore, being added to what Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald described as ‘a conveyor belt of controversies.’
She and several other opposition politicians have been baying for the Commissioner’s resignation, but the government, led by Taoiseach Enda Kenny and his Tánaiste and Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald, is steadfastly backing Ms O’Sullivan by expressing their confidence in her. However, this is being further eroded by clarifications from civilians working in senior positions for An Garda Síochána of statements made by its press office on behalf of management.
Their contradictions of some of the Garda bluff and bluster further undermine credibility in the versions of events contained in various official statements, especially statistical information, having started with the exposure of the discrepancy of over 900,000 between the number of breath tests claimed to have been carried out and the number of testing devices actually supplied by the Medical Bureau of Road Safety. Garda management claimed an ‘audit’ of the figures had been carried out, but the head of the force’s audit unit, Noel Kelly, has since stated that his team had not been given any figures to check and that the rigours of a formal audit process had not been observed.
Furthermore, the head of Garda data analysis, Gurchand Singh, has expressed concerns about the accuracy of a report issued on homicide figures. He claimed that he had not been given the report to read before it was released.
There was yet another embarrassing episode for the Commissioner when her statement to the Public Accounts Committee that she only had a brief meeting over a cup of tea with her executive director for human resources, John Barrett, about alleged financial irregularities at the Garda Training College in Templemore was contradicted by him, saying it lasted two hours and subsequently backing it up with minutes to prove this. These are being investigated by the Public Accounts Committee and what seems like a myriad others by the Policing Authority as well as Judge Peter Charleton’s Disclosures Tribunal into Garda whistle-blowers, etc.
Also-under-fire Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald insists that we must await the outcome of all these inquiries before passing judgement on Garda management, however, in the meantime, morale in the force continues to suffer.