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Policing Authority expresses 'deep unease' at garda management culture

The authority, which met with the Garda Commisioner today, also spoke of the impact of systematic failures on victims.

The Garda Commissioner arriving at the Policing Authority office earlier today.
The Garda Commissioner arriving at the Policing Authority office earlier today.
Image: Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie

THE POLICING AUTHORITY has this evening expressed “deep unease” at the organisation and management culture of An Garda Síochána.

The comments were made after the authority met with commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan today to discuss the findings of the O’Higgins report, which examined allegations made by garda whistleblower Sergeant Maurice McCabe.

It said it has concerns about the impact of “systematic and management failures” on the victims of crimes in the Cavan/Monaghan division and expressed “dismay” at failures in various inquiries and reports into allegations.

The authority said it also expressed “serious concern at the reoccurrence of performance failures” that had been identified by previous inquiries.

“The recurring deficiencies in policing performance evidenced in the O’Higgins final report are deeply troubling,” Chairperson Josephine Feehily said after the meeting.

We wish to express our particular concern for the impact on the victims of crime who were entitled to expect a professional and competent service from the Garda Síochána and who didn’t get it.

A controversial meeting in Mullingar between McCabe and two senior officers was raised today, the authority said, though it did not give any further detail. An accusation emerged, after a meeting between the whistleblower and the two officers, that he was motivated by a grudge against another senior garda.

McCabe had recorded the conversation and the transcript showed there were no mention of this during their conversation. The garda commissioner’s legal team changed their tack after it emerged. Today in the Dáil, Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald confirmed she will be referring these matters to the Garda Ombudsman.

Whistleblowers

The commissioner was told at the meeting today that the organisation’s policy on protected disclosure for whistleblowers should be published at the earliest possible date.

The commissioner was questioned on the steps which senior gardaí take on an ongoing basis to encourage and facilitate ‘speaking up’ about wrongdoing in the Garda Síochána.

An independent culture audit should also be carried out, the authority said, as it expressed “deep unease at the organisation and management culture, including the environment for speaking out as evident in the report”.

The authority has said there is a need for an “urgent response” by An Garda Síochána to the findings of the report. It said there is concern that “good work being done by gardaí every day can be set to nought while doubts remain”.

In the interest of transparency, two further meetings with O’Sullivan on these issues will be held in public next month, on 13 and 30 June, with a focus on service to victims, garda culture and whistleblower disclosures.

These meetings will keep the spotlight on the commissioner, at a time when there are calls for her to resign from her position over revelations from the O’Higgins inquiry.

Yesterday she said she could not see how it would be unreasonable to test and cross-examine the evidence of any person speaking to the commission, including the whistleblower.

However, she again stressed that, in relation to whistleblowers, she believed “dissent is not disloyalty”.

Related: It doesn’t deal with complaints, so what does the Policing Authority do?>

Read: The Garda Commissioner came in for some serious criticism in the Dáil today>

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