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Dublin: 11 °C Tuesday 16 October, 2018
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'Mistrust', 'frustration': Dubliners have their say on the future of policing in Ireland

The chair of the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland said she and her colleagues had heard some heart wrenching stories from members of the public.

Image: Sam Boal

DUBLIN RESIDENTS HAD their chance this evening to help shape the direction An Garda Síochána will head in the future.

The public meeting for the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland was a space where they could lay their frustrations and disappointments on the table. But tonight was also an opportunity to highlight the type of policing they thought was working and to suggest improvements that would make a difference in their lives and communities.

The meeting at Dublin City Council’s Civic Offices was just one of many that have been held across the country over the last two months and commission chair Kathleen O’Toole said some of the stories they had heard were “heart wrenching”.

“We are focusing on the future,” she told members of the public who attended the meeting, adding that there are “enough people not focusing on the past and present”.

The first speaker was a man who told members of the commission that the integrity of An Garda Síochána is gone. He said there was “baggage” in the force that is preventing them from providing the service the public deserves.

Community policing was one area that was highly praised – where it is happening, the gardaí are doing it well, speakers said.

But this service has “come under the axe” according to Dublin City councillor Daithí Doolan, with just 744 community gardaí in the force currently.

“It has been continually eroded and cut,” he told commission members.

Your link with the gardaí isn’t the commissioner or the commission – it’s the local guard.

He told them any incoming commissioner needs to be a “champion of the community guards” and a reforming commissioner.

Another positive came from Gillian Brian of the Belong youth service, who said many of the service’s LGBT young people spoke of “exceptional gardaí working individually on their own without the support of the force”. She said the LGBT diversity training given to 90 gardaí was a welcome move, but this training should be across the board.

Frustration

Some speakers highlighted the criminalisation of drug users – particularly young people. Ana Liffey’s Tony Duffin telling the commission that he had worked closely with gardaí at all levels over the years.

“There is a lot of frustration trying to police something that is in fact a health issue,” he said. The decriminalisation of drugs for personal use is the way forward, Duffin told them.

Representatives from a number of groups who support minorities addressed the commission, including Thomas McCann of the Traveller counselling service. He said the relationship between gardaí and travellers has been “one of mistrust”.

He said many Travellers will not go into a garda station to report a crime.

“People don’t feel like they’re protected by the State when something happens,” he said. This leads to people feeling like they have to protect themselves, he told them.

On that same vein, Dearbhla Ryan of Sex Workers Alliance Ireland said building trust with gardaí and sex workers is “extremely challenging”.

“Gardaí represent enforcers, not protectors, for sex workers,” she said.

And representatives of migrants spoke of how the people they work with are afraid to report crimes to gardaí in case it impacts on their immigration status.

As the meeting came to a close, Kathleen O’Toole thanked members of the public for their constructive feedback.

“We have no agenda but to get this right,” she told them.

The commission is accepting written submissions from members of the public and representative groups until the end of this month.

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