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'Where there should be aspiration, there is sanction' - Gardaí on their new ethics rules

The code commits to standards of conduct like honesty, integrity and the reporting of wrongdoing.

We know that we need to earn the support, we know trust must be won, not once, but constantly, one encounter at a time.

PUBLIC CONFIDENCE WAS the topic of the day as the Policing Authority, after 12 months of work, launched a code of ethics for An Garda Síochána.

In agreeing to the code, gardaí commit to standards of conduct that include a duty to uphold the law, honesty and integrity, respect, privacy, transparency and “speaking up” about wrongdoing within the force.

Authority chairperson Josephine Feehily spoke of how “fragile” public confidence is and how vital it is for the national police force.

Equally, Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan acknowledged gardaí cannot do their jobs without the support and confidence of those they serve. This must be earned “one encounter at a time”, she said at the launch today.

We know confidence is only justified in us in our actions and in our deeds.

Honesty and integrity

Speaking to TheJournal.ie, authority member and former PSNI deputy chief constable, Judith Gillespie said the launch of this code is just the first step.

“It will have to be embedded now, it will have to be made real,” she said.

The vast majority of the organisation act with honesty and integrity at all times and enjoy the confidence of the community it serves.

She said changing the culture of any large organisation is a “long, slow process”, but said the new whistleblower policy, and the encouragement in the code of ethics to “speak up” about wrongdoing will help.

“Changing the culture in any large organisation is a long slow process and you will never change organisational culture in a short space of time.”

Inspiration, not control

There was a focus at today’s launch on the positive language in the code, which commits to various actions and behaviours.

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“Modern leadership is about securing commitment by inspiration not by control,” Feehily explained, adding that the old approach ”doesn’t get you anywhere anyway”.

However rank-and-file gardaí have not seen the code in such a positive light. The Garda Representative Association (GRA) accused the authority of launching itself as “another oversight body to scrutinise, monitor and regulate” members of the force.

“For over 35 years, this association campaigned for an independent police authority to separate policing from political expediency; disappointingly this first significant output retains all the hallmarks of authoritarian orders imposed onto a demoralised workforce,” general secretary Pat Ennis said.

“Where there should be inspiration, there is regulation. Where there should be aspiration, there is sanction. Where there should be ideals, there are rules.”

The Policing Authority has introduced another layer of disciplinary rules and specific prohibitions unnecessarily through this flawed process; gardaí are already under oath and subject to common law, the Garda Code and Garda Discipline Regulations – as well as supervision by senior ranks.

“If the garda selection and recruitment process is correctly designed, structured and implemented then a code of ethics should be implicit in the nature and character of the trainees and should be nurtured rather than dictated,” he added.

Read: ‘I’m not aware of any campaign to discredit any individual’ – Nóirín O’Sullivan>

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