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Guards being able to investigate guards is 'questionable' - GSOC chief

Simon O’Brien said that the organisation’s remit should be “fundamentally reset” so it can “actively seek resolutions to issues and provide feedback to gardaí to bring about change”.

Mark Kelly, ICCL (Pic: Screengrab/Oireachtas TV)
Mark Kelly, ICCL (Pic: Screengrab/Oireachtas TV)

THE GARDA COMMISSIONER should not be exempt from investigations carried out by GSOC, the Oireachtas Justice Committee has heard.

Simon O’Brien, Chair of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission, told the committee that the organisation needed greater powers, including the right to investigate the commissioner if necessary.

He said that is was “questionable” that members of the force were allowed to investigate complaints within an Garda Síochána, saying this should be done by an independent body.

If the process continued, however, he noted that all investigative reports should be sent to GSOC so it can decide if any further action is necessary.

O’Brien said that the objectives of GSOC should be “fundamentally reset” so the body can “actively seek resolutions to issues and provide feedback to gardaí to bring about change”.

He added that the role of the Garda Confidential Recipient should fall under GSOC’s remit.

Mark Kelly, Director of the Irish Council for Civil Liberties, agreed that GSOC needs to be given greater power.

You cannot have a situation where the Garda Commissioner … decides what is or isn’t to be looked at by an independent body.

He noted that the ICCL’s reaction to the fact the Garda inquiry announced yesterday would be carried out the Garda Inspectorate was one of “astonishment”, saying it would “not constitute a robust and independent inquiry”.

John Devitt, Chief Executive of Transparency International Ireland, welcomed the announcement that an independent review of the Department of Justice would be carried out in light of the Guerin Report.

He said this would help in placing “placing some distance bet the gardaí and the Department of Justice”.


Devitt said that whistleblowers should be able to speak up “without fear of disciplinary action”.

Fiona Crowley, Research and Legal Manager at Amnesty International Ireland, said it is “of critical importance” that members of the force can highlight issues of wrongdoing without fear of discrimination.

She added that members of the force  ”must feel that human rights-based, accountable policing in their interests too”.

Kelly added: “Human rights have not been placed at the core of policing in Ireland … now that needs to happen.”

Travelling Community

Brigid Quilligan, Director of the Irish Traveller Movement, said that members of the Travelling Community are often the victims of racial profiling from members of an Garda Síochána.

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She noted that gardaí tend to “see us as criminals and never as victims”, particularly in the case of young Traveller men.

Quilligan added that the slow response time to incidents raised by travellers on halting sites was unacceptable.

She said that when Travellers do need to visit a garda station to report a crime there is often a “lack of eye contact”, noting that some gardaí behave in an “unfriendly manner” and make innocent people feel like criminals.

Quilligan said that trust in the force is generally lower within the Travelling Community than the general public.

She added that trust in an Garda Síochána is “vital for every member of society, regardless of ethnicity”.

Read: Government agrees to independent review of the Department of Justice

About the author:

Órla Ryan

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