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Dáil Diary 41 - 5 June 2015

Little chance of Garda Reform, As long as Old Hierarchy remain in place…
The former Commissioner Martin Callinan, the former Justice Minister Alan Shatter and the former Secretary General of the Justice Department, Brian Purcell, may all be gone, but little else has changed. It looks like the Department of Justice has dug it's heels in, and is making the serious decisions, rather than the Minister for Justice, at Government level, while the old hierarchy of An Garda Siochana is still firmly in place, with the new Commissioner Noirin O Sullivan putting a fresh face on it. We are probably going to see about 10% of the changes we recommended in our Policing Bill last year – aside from that, it’s business as usual. Here’s a shortened version of the exchanges in the Dáil last week between Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald and myself. -

Mick Wallace: " The Garda Commissioner, Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan, has said any garda who wants to report wrongdoing in the force will be welcomed. Sadly, Garda Nick Keogh and Garda Keith Harrison have not been welcomed. It is over one year since they made their complaints. Both have been treated shamefully since. Does the Minister have any problem with the contrast between how those who make complaints are treated and those against whom complaints are made are treated because the latter are treated far better by the hierarchy in An Garda Síochána?

Deputy Frances Fitzgerald:  By way of background, as the Deputy is well aware, prior to the Protected Disclosures Act 2014 coming into operation, whistleblowing by members of An Garda Síochána was provided for under the Garda Síochána (Confidential Reporting of Corruption or Malpractice) Regulations 2007 which provided for the appointment of an independent confidential recipient. The confidential recipient was then required to transmit each confidential report to the Garda Commissioner.

Only where a confidential report contained an allegation which related to the Garda Commissioner was it transmitted to the Minister. In transmitting a report, the confidential recipient had to be aware of the obligation to protect the identity of the whistleblower, and any communication between the confidential recipient and the whistleblower was confidential and was not conveyed to the Minister. The regulations provided that any harassment or intimidation of a member who had made a confidential report would be dealt with in accordance with the law. This system was replaced by the Protected Disclosures Act 2014, which came into operation in July 2014 as part of the Government's comprehensive approach to enhance the protection available to whistleblowers, including Garda whistleblowers. GSOC was prescribed under the Act as a body to receive protected disclosures. 

With regard to the two cases referred to by the Deputy, I first make the point that all of us in this House must be very careful in discussing individual cases of whistleblowing. The Protected Disclosures Act prioritises the confidentiality of the process, a confidentiality which is not always easily reconciled with some discussions in the House. However, I am advised by the Garda authorities that reports in both of the cases referred to by the Deputy were originally received under the confidential recipient regulations. One of the cases is the subject of a comprehensive criminal investigation and upon completion may be the subject of a report to the Director of Public Prosecutions. The second case was subsequently referred to GSOC under the Protected Disclosures Act 2014. 

I know that the Deputy will appreciate that I have no functions in regard to criminal investigations that are ongoing, to the submission of files to the DPP or in regard to the investigation of complaints by GSOC. In regard to both of the cases the Deputy referred to, one is the subject of a current criminal investigation and the other has been referred to GSOC.
Mick Wallace:  I am not going to discuss the details of the complaints, so I will not be prejudicing any case. In regard to the latter case referred to, the Minister spoke about a confidential report. In the case of this particular garda, there was supposed to be an internal investigation. Nóirín O'Sullivan handpicked two individuals to look after the internal investigation, but what did they do? They leaked the information to the alleged perpetrator. They leaked it. They have concrete evidence of it. 

The garda was told then that he should refer the matter to GSOC and it said "Ye were the ones who damaged the internal investigation, so ye do it." Eventually they did it in September. In September 2014, it was referred to GSOC by Nóirín O'Sullivan but zero progress has been made to date. In the meantime, this particular garda has had a Garda car go down his boreen 19 times this year alone to intimidate him and his post has been opened. He has been treated like a criminal.

Deputy Frances Fitzgerald:  I note the Deputy has raised allegations about these cases on at least two occasions with the Taoiseach, on 28 January and on 31 March and on both occasions the Deputy was asked to provide information in writing if he has it.

Mick Wallace:  That is not true. I was not asked about any information Minister.

Deputy Frances Fitzgerald:  The Deputy has made some serious allegations. There are independent processes available to members of An Garda Síochána and the Deputy is aware the Government has introduced new legislation under the Protected Disclosures Act. I have told the Deputy there is a criminal investigation under way. If there is information available, such as the Deputy has put forward in the House today, that obviously needs to be part and parcel of the criminal investigation that is going on. For the Deputy to make the suggestions he has made in regard to proactive leaking on this case is a serious allegation.

Obviously, every criminal investigation is serious and there is a criminal investigation going on in one case. In the other case, there is a GSOC investigation.

Surely those cases should be allowed to be dealt with via the process of the criminal investigation and the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission, GSOC, report on those that is currently taking place. The floor of the Dáil is not the place to be discussing the detail of those cases when there are processes, rules and legislation set up to deal with the concerns of whistleblowers in An Garda Síochána and other bodies.

Mick Wallace: I can only presume that the Minister has been ill informed because the process is not working for these two Garda whistleblowers. I am not saying that is the Minister's fault. I am saying it is not working for them, and they have been treated abysmally. Both of them are out sick much of the time. They have suffered terrible intimidation. They are stressed. Garda Keogh has been sent to the surgeon in the Phoenix Park headquarters as an intermediary measure. It is crazy to say there is a process in place that works for these people. They are not getting any feedback. There is no communication with them. The only communication they are getting is bullying and intimidation. I am not saying it is the Minister's fault. I am saying the system is not working. I am sorry but it appears to me that the Minister is not being kept accurately informed by An Garda Síochána. These people are in a bad place, and they need help and protection."

Mick Wallace.

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