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'Can GSOC continue with the confidence of the public and gardaí? Yes it can' - Frances Fitzgerald

The justice minister last night opted for an independent investigation into Garda Sergeant Michael Galvin’s death.

Updated 8.45

JUSTICE MINISTER FRANCES Fitzgerald has confirmed that it is “in the public interest” to take the route of an indepedendent judicial inquiry into the circumstances surrounding Garda Sergeant Michael Galvin’s death.

Sergeant Galvin, who had been questioned by GSOC as part of an investigation into a fatal traffic incident in January, took his own life at a Donegal Garda Station last week.

Galvin had been cleared of any wrongdoing, but this fact was never communicated to him and the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI) has criticised the ombudsman commission’s handling of the inquiry.

“I think it’s worthwhile examining the processes of GSOC that took place,” she told RTE’s Morning Ireland this morning.

Family Relationships Bills Frances Fitzgerald Sam Boal / Photocall Ireland Sam Boal / Photocall Ireland / Photocall Ireland

I want the oversight work to function as well as possible, and the gardaí are very keen for that also.

When asked whether or not GSOC could continue to function effectively with the confidence of the public and the gardaí the minister’s response was an unequivocal “yes”.

Yes GSOC can function normally, they have the confidence of the public and the gardaí, they took the decision themselves last week to submit to a peer review which was a very positive step, but now they think my suggestion (of an independent inquiry) is the way to go.

Earlier on the same programme Fianna Fáil senator Marc McSharry, who hails from the same street in Sligo as Sergeant Galvin, said that “it’s completely inappropriate that this investigation was assigned to GSOC in the first place”.

“It’s incumbent on this new investigation to get all the information available, because it’s obvious that whatever procedures that are there are completely inadequate,” he said when asked how he felt about GSOC’s explanation that the delayed relaying of Sergeant Galvin’s exoneration to him was attributable to the DPP having final decision.

McSharry described Sergeant Galvin and his family as “pillars of their community, and indeed across the northwest”.

No outcome of this investigation can adequately meet the needs of the sergeant’s family.
You cannot describe the shock in their community, but also the downright anger and outrage of ordinary people at the circumstances of all this.
None of us can begin to imagine the trauma and stress the Galvin family is currently going through.

The justice minister last night announced that she has decided to open an independent investigation into the GSOC inquiry which preceded the death of a Sergeant Galvin last week.

The Minister announced in a statement that Supreme Court Chief Justice Susan Denham will appoint a judge from the High Court or Supreme Court, who will examine “the conduct of the original GSOC investigation.”

Yesterday, GSOC appeared to fight back against widespread criticism, some of which it said was “inflammatory” in a statement:

We have been listening to the concerns of Sergeant Galvin’s family and colleagues and public commentary for the past few days.
We believe that much of the commentary has been misleading , inaccurate and inflammatory.
…We are convinced that our interaction with the late Sargent Galvin was proportionate and reasonable.

The ombudsman’s office also confirmed that it had ended its previous investigation into Galvin’s death, a decision the Minister said she welcomed.

Rank and file Gardaí had previously joined sergeants and inspectors in calling for the independent investigation, and criticising the prospect of GSOC itself carrying out the inquiry.

The Garda Representative Association (GRA), which represents rank and file officers, said in a statement that they were “dismayed” that GSOC would be regarded as an appropriate agency to conduct this inquiry.

Sergeant Galvin had been under investigation by GSOC, along with other members of garda rank. We fear that the stress of this made some significant contribution, in whatever way, to this tragic loss.

“We need to be sure that this investigative process is transparent, and that the family, friends and colleagues can have absolute confidence that this absolute tragedy has been thoroughly examined, and that lessons can be learned for the future,” the GRA said.

They added that Galvin was highly regarded by gardaí who had the honour of working with him.

“There are no words to express the pain and trauma of this past week. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Galvin family at the time of such great loss.”

In last night’s announcement, Minister Fitzgerald said her decision had come after “constructive and beneficial” meetings with both GSOC and the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors.

The independent investigation will be conducted under Section 109 of the 2005 Garda Síochána Act.

- with reporting from Hugh O’Connell, Dan Mac Guill and Cianan Brennan

If you need someone to talk to, contact:

  • Console  1800 247 247 (suicide prevention, self-harm, bereavement)
  • Aware 1890 303 302 (depression, anxiety)
  • Pieta House 01 601 0000 or email - (suicide, self-harm)
  • Teen-Line Ireland 1800 833 634 (for ages 13 to 19)
  • Childline 1800 66 66 66 (for under 18s)

Read: Fresh calls for independent probe into death of garda who took his own life>

Read: Family of garda who took his own life do not want GSOC involved in investigation into his death 

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