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Dáil Éireann debate -
Thursday, 15 May 2014

Vol. 841 No. 3

Guerin Report: Statements

I welcome the opportunity to give my response to the report by Mr. Seán Guerin of his review of the action taken by An Garda Síochána pertaining to certain allegations. The report contains deeply disturbing findings. It raises fundamental issues about the Garda Síochána, its investigation of criminal cases and the responses to serious concerns raised about it, Garda management and oversight, basic policing procedures and the role of bodies such as GSOC and the Department of Justice and Equality. Significant steps must be taken to deal with these issues. All of the issues which Mr Guerin has found warrant further inquiry, including the individual allegations which have not been properly investigated. These must be examined by the commission of investigation which he has recommended.

However, the wider systemic and historical problems revealed must also be tackled by a programme of significant reform, by which I mean that the oversight and governance of the Garda Síochána will be transformed with the establishment of an independent Garda authority; the highest levels of legal support and protection will be given to Garda whistleblowers; the remit, strength and capacity of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission will be enhanced to enable the effective and independent examination of complaints; the filling of the post of Garda Commissioner will be by way of open competition; and a wide range of Garda management, operational and procedural issues will be examined by the independent and expert Garda Inspectorate.

Allow me to briefly recall how the allegations which led to the report by Mr. Guerin came to be made. In doing so, I will touch on some of the main points. The full details of what is a complex history are set out in the report. In late 2007 and into 2008, Sergeant Maurice McCabe made allegations of Garda misconduct, first to the Garda authorities and then to the Garda Confidential Recipient. Additional complaints were subsequently made through the Garda Confidential Recipient, many of which involved an alleged lack of supervision, management and oversight by a specific superintendent. These allegations were investigated by an assistant Garda Commissioner and a chief superintendent.

In 2009, Sergeant McCabe communicated with the then Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, expressing concerns about the conduct of the Garda investigation and asking for independent oversight of it. He was advised then that the conduct of the investigation was a matter for the Garda Commissioner in accordance with the Garda Síochána Act 2005 and the Minister had no role in directing the Commissioner in such operational matters.

In January 2012, the then Minister for Justice and Equality received a letter via the Garda Confidential Recipient containing broadly the same allegations as those covered by the Garda investigation, with additional complaints against the assistant Garda Commissioner who carried out the investigation and the Garda Commissioner for permitting the superintendent at the centre of the allegations to be on a promotion panel. The Minister sought a report from the Garda Commissioner who advised the Minister that the assistant Commissioner had found the complaints made by Sergeant McCabe were not substantiated. No adverse findings were made against the superintendent involved, who had secured his place on the promotion panel following an independent competitive process. The Commissioner also advised that the investigation by the assistant Garda Commissioner had been reviewed by a deputy Garda Commissioner who found that it had been properly conducted.

In February 2012, the Minister advised the Garda Confidential Recipient of the advice of the Garda Commissioner and concluded that there was no evidence to support further action by him. Later in 2012, the Minister also received additional documentation from Sergeant McCabe's solicitors which was the subject of correspondence with them. Mr. Guerin, in sharp contrast, has found cause for concern in ten of the individual allegations by Sergeant McCabe and cause for concern as to the adequacy of the investigation by the Garda Síochána. While he makes the point that he has not made any findings of fact or come to any determination on any of the matters he examined, Mr. Guerin has indicated the need for further inquiry by way of a commission of investigation. The commission will have the powers and the remit to thoroughly investigate all of the relevant issues and hear the evidence of everyone concerned.

I acknowledge the very difficult experience Sergeant McCabe has had and the critical role he played in bringing these issues forward. I fully support the remarks made by the Taoiseach yesterday about how Sergeant McCabe's complaints were handled. I also recall the Taoiseach's earlier response on how seriously he regarded the allegations when he was given documentation by Deputy Micheál Martin.

The individual allegations which the report recommends should be examined by a commission of investigation relate to serious matters such as the granting of bail to an offender who ultimately committed murder, an assault on a 17 year old girl, dangerous driving causing injuries and the investigation of sexual offences. The precise terms of reference of the commission of investigation will be decided shortly and will include all of the issues recommended by Mr. Guerin for examination. The commission will, therefore, examine a wide range of issues, including the individual and serious cases described and systemic policing issues, general policing issues in the Bailieboro Garda district at the time, the role of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission in this matter and the role of the Department of Justice and Equality and Minister in responding to the allegations.

What is now imperative is to grasp this opportunity to comprehensively address all of the complex and deep-rooted issues raised not only in the report by Mr. Guerin, but more widely those that relate to matters such as Garda oversight and management, policing practice, whistleblowing and relationships between the Garda Síochána and key stakeholders. Many of these issues were raised, in one form or another, in the reports of the Morris tribunal. Action was taken on foot of the findings of that tribunal and changes were made. The Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission and Garda Inspectorate were established, the legal relationship between the Garda Commissioner and Minister was clarified and new discipline and promotion procedures were introduced. However, time passed and systems failed. That is the truth of the matter and it is a truth that should inform our thinking from now on.

We must never be seduced into believing that a once in a lifetime radical reform is enough. More to the point, we must understand that major reforms carry their own in-built danger, namely, the assumption that, because of the scale of change, we will not need to be vigilant from that point on. If there is a single overarching lesson that we and all the organs of State related to justice must learn, it is that major reform never removes the need for constant questioning, attention to detail, reaching for what is better and review, rather than what will "just do."

We must now acknowledge the need for much more than reform arising from the Guerin report or the commission of investigation. Fundamental reform is needed not only of legal provisions, although that is certainly needed, but of institutional relationships, culture and attitudes. The reforms I envisage will be systematic and comprehensive and will use what has taken place as a catalyst. This is an historic opportunity to give Ireland a justice system of which we can be proud. We have an opportunity to introduce real and lasting change that makes a genuine difference in order that we will not be here again in ten years' time. We must put in place this time a comprehensive set of reforms to make sure nothing like this can happen again.

Members of the public rightly expect to be able to rely on the policing service and criminal justice system. They must be able to trust that crimes they report will be fully and properly investigated. It is also vital for members of the Garda Síochána, the overwhelming majority of whom joined the Garda to give public service and of their best, that they work in a system where detecting failings is regarded as professional and praiseworthy, rather than disloyal. It is important to recognise that gardaí around the country who understand this are hurt and upset at the failures which have been exposed.

The Garda Síochána provides a vital public service, preventing and investigating crime, tackling anti-social behaviour, keeping our streets safe for law-abiding citizens, and, of course, protecting national security, especially through combating subversion and terrorism. Members of the Garda Síochána routinely find themselves, and sometimes have to put themselves, in harm's way so the public is protected. Many have suffered hardship and injury doing so while some have made the ultimate sacrifice. This Saturday, I will be attending the annual Garda memorial day in the Dublin Gardens at Dublin Castle to honour the memory of the force’s members who were killed in the line of duty. We owe it to them, as well as to the public they serve, to put matters right once and for all.

The Government has, therefore, decided to amend the Protected Disclosures Bill, currently before this House, to enable Garda whistleblowers to report their concerns directly to the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission, GSOC, for independent investigation. As Deputies know, this Bill, brought forward by the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, will provide a robust and supportive environment for all whistleblowers in both the public and private sectors in line with the very best international standards. This will mean that Garda whistleblowers will from now on have a strong legal framework in which to report concerns, strong legal protection against penalisation and the opportunity of a fully independent examination of their concerns. This historic move will mean the situation faced by Sergeant McCabe can never happen again. The structures will be in place.

The Government has also announced it will bring forward urgent proposals to strengthen GSOC's powers and remit. Yesterday, I listened to presentations made at the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality, under the chairmanship of Deputy David Stanton, on these matters which is hearing submissions from interested parties, including GSOC. I look forward to the committee’s recommendations and will take them into account in developing proposals for legislative change. My intention is to finalise these proposals in the form of a draft Bill for consideration by the Government as a top priority. I will not anticipate the detailed content of those proposals. However, some of the key issues which must be considered are the potential inclusion of the Garda Commissioner within the remit of GSOC; the desirability of permitting GSOC to initiate reviews of Garda practices, policies or procedures without requiring the consent of the Minister; whether GSOC needs any extension of the police powers available to it; the threshold for the referral of cases to GSOC by the Minister; and the extent to which complaints to GSOC are referred to the Garda Síochána for investigation. In listing these issues, I am not being prescriptive or restrictive. All good ideas will be constructively considered.

The Government has already announced that an independent Garda authority will be established by the end of the year. This is a significant development, surely the most important single change in the governance of the Garda Síochána in its history. The end-of-year deadline is challenging, particularly as legislation will be needed. I am determined, however, to do everything possible to achieve it and look forward to the co-operation of the House in that regard.

Yet another reform announced by the Government is that the vacancy in the office of Garda Commissioner will be filled by open competition. Like the idea of an independent Garda authority, an open competition has been proposed before including in a 2007 report by an advisory group on Garda management and leadership development chaired by former Senator Maurice Hayes. We must move on this now. As that report noted, "This does not in any way predicate the appointment of an external candidate but it does ensure that the successful candidate would have been tested against international standards in police leadership".

The Guerin report also identifies a range of legal and procedural issues which warrant further review. These relate to matters such as the continuity of tenure of district officers; aspects of the supervision of probationer gardaí; the securing of CCTV, closed-circuit television footage, in criminal investigations, commented on several times in the Guerin report; the operation of station bail and the use of the Bail Act 1997; the taking of victim impact statements; the taking of contemporaneous notes; and the integrity of PULSE records.

In some instances these issues will require consideration by the Garda Commissioner, but I will also be asking the Garda Síochána Inspectorate to carry out a comprehensive inquiry into serious crime investigation, as well as the management, operational and procedural issues arising from the findings of the report. The Garda Síochána Inspectorate has already made recommendations in some of these areas. We must examine how many of these have been implemented to date. The inspectorate also has important work under way which will, of course, be taken into account. All of this reform work is being overseen by the new Cabinet committee on justice reform, chaired by the Taoiseach and including the Tánaiste, the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources and myself. The Attorney General also attends the committee. A review of the Garda Síochána is also under way under the Haddington Road agreement which is being conducted by the Garda Inspectorate and Ray McGee, a former deputy chair of the Labour Court. It too has the potential to contribute to the wider Garda reform programme.

I have already noted the recommendation in the report that the commission of investigation should look at the role of the Minister, which, of course, includes the Department of Justice and Equality, in responding to Sergeant McCabe's allegations. In addition, the Government has also agreed to my proposals on the establishment of an external expert review of the performance, management and administration of the Department to be completed before the summer recess. I am on record as stating I have been very impressed at the range and extent of the Department's legislative output. I acknowledge the extensive and reforming contribution of the former Minister, Deputy Alan Shatter, to that programme which has been achieved despite the extraordinary breadth of policy and operational areas in the Department. These cover not just policing and legislation, but prisons and probation, extradition, domestic violence, international child abduction, family law, charities, insolvency, data protection and many other areas. Every one of these difficult and complex areas is directly relevant to the citizen - all the more reason to learn wider lessons and put the right structures in place.

All of this means tackling a significant and challenging programme of review and reform with the establishment of an independent Garda authority, strong protection for Garda whistleblowers, an enhanced GSOC and an independent review of a range of policing issues by the Garda Síochána Inspectorate. These are far-reaching changes. We must be prepared, as we are, to respond to any further findings or recommendations which may emerge from either the commission of investigation to be chaired by Mr. Justice Nial Fennelly or the commission of investigation to be established on foot of the report by Mr. Guerin. We will also have to consider the upcoming report of Mr. Justice John Cooke on concerns about surveillance of GSOC. This report was commissioned on 20 February 2014 and Mr. Justice Cooke was asked to report within eight weeks. The report should be available in the near future. Its implications will also need to be considered in the House. The terms of reference should also take account of this report.

I am committed to implementing this reform agenda. I believe in doing so, I will have the support of Members in this House, as well as the support of members of the Garda Síochána, many of whom are concerned about recent events.

They want to see leadership and change, their morale clearly needs to be improved and they need to be supported. I believe there will be widespread support in the criminal justice system and support from the public, whom we all serve.

I look forward to hearing the views of Members on all sides on these issues and to engaging with Members over the coming months on the many varied and distinct responses which are needed to deal with the issues we are discussing.

Before calling on Deputy Niall Collins, I wish to apologise to the House, and to the Minister, for my phone going off.

That is okay. I accept that.

I always leave it on my desk before coming down here, but for some reason I did not do so this morning. I apologise and hope I did not disturb the Minister's contribution.

We understand. It could happen to anybody.

Will the Ceann Comhairle apologise to us for the lack of parking on the Merrion Square side?

On that issue, one cannot put two pints into a pint glass.

I welcome the opportunity to speak on this important topic, which flows from the Guerin report and which has dominated the political agenda for a long time, both inside and outside of the House.

At the outset, I publicly and formally wish the new Minister, Deputy Frances Fitzgerald, all the best in her new role. Hers is an onerous task. It is one of the most daunting challenges facing any Minister. Personally and publicly, I wish her well. We on this side of the House will do what we have always strived to do, which is to give constructive opposition to the Government and seek to serve the public interest in the best way possible. I also publicly acknowledge that the former Minister, Deputy Shatter, has departed and, on a personal level, wish him well in the new phase of his career where he finds himself.

The Guerin report is a comprehensive report. It stretches to more than 300 pages. I compliment Mr. Guerin SC on producing the report in such a timely manner. It is quite detailed and extensive and he consulted over an extended period, particularly with Sergeant Maurice McCabe. There are many issues flowing from it which I hope to address in this contribution.

The Guerin report has shown that Sergeant Maurice McCabe was correct in his actions to highlight the failure to administer justice in the Bailieborough Garda district. Its findings are an embarrassment for the Government, which denied that there was ever any issue in the justice area and defended the former Minister, Deputy Shatter, month after month. The former Minister dismissed and belittled the whistleblowers and was supported by the Taoiseach while doing so.

The failure of Garda management and the Department of Justice and Equality to respond in an effective manner to the concerns raised by the Sergeant McCabe is a clear indication that there needs to be a dramatic culture shift in order that there can be more openness and accountability. There needs be a root and branch reform in the Department of Justice and Equality and in An Garda Síochána.

The inactivity and defiance of the former Minister for Justice and Equality compounded the issues of considerable concern raised. Mr. Guerin SC has recommended that a full commission of investigation should be set up as soon as possible. That is something I and my party have called for and we welcome that recommendation. In the meantime, changes within the administrative systems should start immediately. Morale in the Garda force needs to be improved while confidence in the justice system is reinstated.

The Guerin report was established to review the allegations made by Sergeant Maurice McCabe and the actions taken by An Garda Síochána in response to those allegations. Mr. Seán Guerin SC was asked to conduct this report by the Taoiseach after the Fianna Fáil leader, Deputy Martin, furnished the Taoiseach with a dossier of documents given to him by Sergeant McCabe. This dossier included reports of crimes that were mismanaged or ignored.

The report reviews the alleged malpractice within the Bailieborough Garda district, reviewing ten incidents as well as an overview of the Garda investigations into complaints by Sergeant McCabe, the role of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission and the role of the Department of Justice and Equality. It states: "The deficiencies identified in the investigations considered in this review, if they were widely replicated, would be a challenge to public confidence in the criminal justice system itself."

The report's conclusions confirm that there was no malice on the part of Sergeant McCabe in making his various complaints. It is a fact that Sergeant McCabe was entirely vindicated. The report's conclusions also state that the former Minister for Justice and Equality was not, and An Garda Síochána currently is not, willing to heed the voice of an ordinary member in raising complaints, and that it is desirable that a comprehensive commission of investigation be established under the Commission of Investigation Act 2004 to investigate the issues that remain unresolved arising from the complaints made by Sergeant McCabe.

The report also states that a review must be carried out on a number of procedural matters of An Garda Síochána including: procedures for taking of a statement amounting to a withdrawal of a complaint of a criminal nature; where disciplinary proceedings are taken against a probationary garda, a report should be conducted on the adequacy and effectiveness of the supervision of that garda; the procedures ensuring CCTV footage is obtained; a review of the operation of the PULSE system; the operation of station bail; the use of section 2A of the Bail Act 1997; and the direction and guidance to members of An Garda Síochána on victim impact statements, psychiatric reports, the procedure for dealing with complaints, the making of contemporaneous notes, the taking of statements of evidence and the updating of those statements. It also states that the Department of Justice and Equality should review its procedures for the assessment of complaints made by the Minister on any aspect of the administration, operation, practice or procedure of An Garda Síochána or the conduct of its members for the determination by the Minister of applications for the exercise of the specific and regulatory functions available to the Minister in that regard.

The report states that the former Minister for Justice and Equality could have utilised two legislative provisions in addressing concerns raised by Sergeant McCabe. These are the power to establish a special inquiry pursuant to section 42 of the Garda Síochána Act 2005, as amended, and the function provided for in regulation 8(2) of the Garda Síochána (Confidential Reporting of Corruption or Malpractice) Regulations 2007, SI 168 of 2007. These available ministerial functions would have enabled the former Minister to ensure an investigation, independent in the true sense of An Garda Síochána, could have been conducted into matters that may have been the subject of a complaint made to him, and Deputy Shatter failed to use these statutory provisions.

There is also no evidence of any detailed assessment within the Department of any of the allegations made by Sergeant McCabe or of the responses received from the former Commissioner, Mr. Callinan. It appears the former Minister accepted the former Commissioner's word without any questioning whatsoever. The advice received from the former Commissioner was acted on by the former Minister "without that advice being questioned or analysed". The report reads "there is cause for concern" as to the former Minister's approach to the complaints made and the lack of action taken. It appears the former Minister gifted his duties in this regard to the former Commissioner.

In chapter 19, Mr. Guerin mentions that Sergeant McCabe sent an e-mail in 2009 to the former Minister, Dermot Ahern, confirming that the complaint he made in regard to malpractice and corruption in Baileboro Garda District, Cavan-Monaghan was being investigated. The private secretary replied to say that the investigation should be allowed take its course. The report states that a commission of investigation into the matters outlined must be established in order to understand why the malpractice in Bailieboro Garda district was allowed to continue indefinitely despite the issue being raised at the highest level of An Garda Síochána and the Government. Fianna Fáil fully supports the call for a commission of investigation and believes this commission should be kept separate to any other commission which has been already established by the Government investigating matters relating to An Garda Síochána.

The alleged malpractice in Bailieboro undermines the foundations of our criminal justice system. It also undermines the morale of all members of An Garda Síochána. In order for public confidence to be restored in An Garda Síochána it is necessary to establish fully and frankly how the situation surrounding the malpractice in Cavan was allowed to occur, continue and be covered up over such a long period of time.

It is clear that the management of An Garda Síochána and the disciplinary and complaints procedures present need to be reformed. The introduction of an independent policing authority is central to ensuring that the matters raised by Sergeant Maurice McCabe do not happen again. The management of the Garda force must also be reviewed in light of the failure of the former Commissioner, an assistant commissioner and a number of other senior officers to deal with the complaints made by Sergeant McCabe in an effective and reasonable way. The lack of appropriate supervision and management guidance by senior Garda officers in Cavan is a striking finding in the report.

In her opening statement, the Minister said the Government has decided to fill the position of Garda Commissioner subject to an open competition. That is a good decision. Questions have been asked as to whether that position will be filled prior to the establishment of the new authority. There needs to be a degree of transparency around the procedure and process for filling that vacancy. Who will do the interviewing and how will we go about advertising the vacancy on a worldwide basis? If we are opening it up to competition, it must obviously be done internationally. I do not have any preference. The best person may be an internal candidate within An Garda Síochána or it may not be. I do not have a fixed view on that. However, consideration needs to be given as to whether that post will be filled on a permanent basis before the establishment of the new policing authority.

A number of other questions follow on from that. The former Garda Commissioner, Martin Callanan, had engaged in a series of interview processes to fill vacancies at the rank of deputy commissioner and assistant commissioner. I understand that was a top-level appointments committee or TLAC-style competition, though not formally run through the TLAC process. Do those interviews stand? Will the people who were successful, or potentially successful, still stand, given that the person who would have been central and very much a key stakeholder or player in that process, the former Garda Commissioner, has now departed the stage? Or will that interview process be negated and, if so, will it start all over again, similar to the vacant Garda Commissioner post, with the advent of the new policing authority?

The structure of An Garda Síochána will be part of the ongoing reform. The Minister rightly mentioned a review process under the Haddington Road agreement. This was discussed at yesterday's hearings of the Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality. There has been some commentary on the fact that the last extensive review of the structure of An Garda Síochána was held in the 1970s by the Conroy Commission.

Some people feel the organisation is too flat, while others feel it may be top-heavy at some levels. Is it intended to review the structure of different grades and ranks within An Garda Síochána? We can argue indefinitely about the strength of the force and whether it should be 13,000, 14,000 or 15,000 but it is a debate for another day.

In her speech, the Minister acknowledged that the follow-on from the Morris tribunal culminated in the Garda Síochána Act 2005. While it did not get everything right, most of the recommendations were taken on board. GSOC was established, as was the Garda inspectorate. In addition, the professional standards unit within An Garda Síochána was also established. The Garda inspectorate has made a huge impact on the effectiveness and efficiency of the workings of An Garda Síochána. At yesterday's committee meeting, the inspectorate's representatives were able to demonstrate coherently how they were concerned with systems within An Garda Síochána.

It is good to have the benefit of the experience of people like Mr. Olson and his colleagues who have international expertise. Will the new Garda inspectorate form part of the new policing authority or will it be kept separate? Various views were expressed at the committee yesterday as to whether that entity is really under the remit or control of the Minister, or if it is a separate and stand-alone body.

The proposed policing authority must be truly independent. Members of the Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality intend travelling to the North of Ireland and Scotland to look at their models. Obviously, there must be a board. My own view, which was echoed by many civil society groups at the committee yesterday, is that the new policing authority's members should not be appointed by the Government. They should be appointed by a process that could be overseen, for example, by the Public Appointments Commission.

It was also said yesterday, and I agree, that there should be some public representatives on the board of the new policing authority. We can debate how one goes about that. At the end of the day, however, public representatives are the people's representatives. In addition, members of the public and representatives of civil society groups will also form part of the board.

The Minister also referred to the expert review of her new Department's workings, which is being undertaken. It is felt that is necessary and it will be quite an interesting exercise. She did not say, however, who is conducting the review. She may have said so previously but, if so, I am not aware of it. Has it been decided who will conduct the review? I have heard it mentioned that it will be conducted by retired former civil servants, but is the Minister saying that is not the case?

Once it is not being done entirely by former civil servants I would agree with it. Otherwise it would effectively be a case of the guards investigating the guards, or a form of peer review which would not be acceptable.

We have the Fennelly commission of investigation and we are told the Cooke review into the allegations of bugging at GSOC is imminent and may be published tomorrow. We will deal with it whenever it is published. As stated, the terms of reference flowing from the Guerin report will have to examine the ten cases which were the subject of the dossier. We must consider other cases which may be as serious or more serious but which are not in the public domain and have not had the same oxygen of publicity as some of the ten cases in the dossier. Will the terms of reference provide for cases which anybody in the House or elsewhere seeks to communicate with the Minister directly? There should be some channel whereby those cases can be considered for inclusion under the commission of investigation based on their merits. I ask the Minister to seriously take it on board.

As part of the Fennelly commission of investigation we suggested the modular form be considered as part of the terms of reference. We suggested the premature departure of the former Garda Commissioner be examined up front with a shorter timescale than the year-end reporting requirement which was placed on Fennelly. Serious thought should be given to establishing modular reporting through the terms of reference.

When we speak in the Dáil on matters such as this we must extensively thank the men and women of the Garda Síochána for the work they do because the vast majority of them go above and beyond the call of duty. Many members of the Garda have told me they were not happy about being at the centre of political discourse and I explained that it had to be so because the issues were of public interest and warranted political debate. Garda morale is an issue, which Deputy Mac Lochlainn and I, along with others, have been raising for some time. It must be addressed. The relationship between the former Minister, Deputy Shatter, and the Garda Representative Association, GRA, was broken and I expect the Minister to make every effort to repair it. It is important we have a well-motivated force and we will leave no stone unturned in trying to resurrect it. This week an off-duty garda foiled an attempted raid on a cash-in-transit delivery, in another example of how many gardaí go above and beyond the call of duty.

I welcome the commission of investigation and thank Sergeant Maurice McCabe and Mr. John Wilson. Sergeant McCabe ploughed a lonely furrow for a long time and was subjected to a campaign of bullying, innuendo, undermining and threats. Any time I have engaged with Sergeant McCabe I have found him to be a man of the utmost humility. He did what he did for the right reasons, as acknowledged in the Guerin report. One of the striking points in the Guerin report is the positive testimony some of his colleagues gave as part of the internal reports compiled over the years since he first started to make his complaints. There is testimony in those reports which we never heard before from Sergeant McCabe's colleagues who said he was a very good guy. Unfortunately, this was not what was presented to the public for a long time. That was regrettable and we must learn from it.

I congratulate the Minister on her appointment. I will recount all the mistakes made by the Government so all of us can reflect on the lessons that must be learned. As Sinn Féin spokesperson on justice I will give the Minister a fair wind. Although I am happy with the announcements she has made so far in response to some of these crises, I will detail, with the Minister present, what has gone wrong.

The Morris tribunal in my home county, Donegal, revealed an appalling abuse of power by the Garda Síochána at every level throughout the county that shocked people throughout the State. It was not isolated and is not unique to Ireland but happens in police forces throughout the world. It was a challenge for us to change the culture and systems that allowed those abuses to happen. It led to the Garda Síochána Act 2005, which established the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission, the Garda Inspectorate and a codified system, and made other welcome changes. However, from the beginning my party said it did not go far enough.

We strongly felt the powers of GSOC were insufficient in that the Garda Commissioner was not accountable to it and it could not initiate investigations. We also felt it did not have enough resources and the system of lease out, as it is known, whereby gardaí investigated gardaí was poor practice, and we criticised it repeatedly. We also talked about an independent policing authority. We saw the new beginning in policing in the North. While I am not comparing the old RUC with An Garda Síochána, there are models there from which we could learn and benefit. Some of the findings of the Patten commission were there to be learned from. We, like others, said there needed to be an independent policing authority in the State.

From the beginning of the Government's term there was a lack of emphasis on the challenges. For example, the programme for Government did not mention an independent policing authority. When various Opposition Deputies repeatedly called for it, such as Deputy Wallace who brought forward a Bill on it last year, the Government rejected it. In February, I tabled a question to the then Minister, Deputy Shatter, and he robustly rejected the suggestion of an independent policing authority. Up to very recently the Government was not entertaining the idea and was not learning the lessons that were becoming apparent.

The decision to amalgamate defence and policing under one Minister was a mistake. It was too much for one Minister to deal with and was disrespectful to the members of the Garda Síochána and the Defence Forces and I welcome the fact that it has ended. The warning signs were there for a long time and were repeatedly ignored.

I will comment towards the end of the contribution on what I hope will be a new beginning.

The Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission initiated a public interest investigation a number of years ago into what is known as the Kieran Boylan affair, which involved serious allegations that a major convicted drug dealer had operated as an informer, leading to the alleged entrapment and imprisonment of other drug dealers of lesser threat. He got off with €1.4 million of heroin and cocaine, without any explanation, which was a serious matter. GSOC conducted an investigation and submitted a report to the previous Minister but there has been no response to it. GSOC complained bitterly about the appalling lack of co-operation from the former Garda Commissioner and senior Garda management in that investigation over four years, which delayed the investigation considerably. The seven page summary is in the public domain and it indicated there was a failure to learn the lessons of the Morris tribunal, particularly with regard to the retention of contemporaneous notes. It is a very basic necessity to keep notes and record decisions. The issue of handling informers is a similar issue.

These matters were not responded to by the former Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Shatter, for months. He stayed schtum and did not say a word about the very severe criticism in the public domain. I chair the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Public Service Oversight and Petitions, and it brought in representatives of GSOC, as was its responsibility, to hear its concerns. The episode dragged on for months but it was not isolated. In 2013, Mr. Ian Bailey's legal representatives wrote to the former Minister, Deputy Shatter, on three separate occasions expressing concern about the failure of An Garda Síochána to co-operate with a GSOC investigation initiated on the basis of complaints from them. The Minister of the time did not deal with those issues and he recently responded to correspondence from my party leader, Deputy Adams, by indicating it was not his responsibility. Deputy Shatter eventually stood over a meeting between the former Garda Commissioner and GSOC to agree protocols of co-operation, so it was his responsibility. There was a failure to deal with the systemic failures which were emerging all the time.

There is also the issue of the Supreme Court decision not to extradite Mr. Bailey to France, as part of a French investigation, for questioning on the murder of Ms Sophie Toscan du Plantier. The Department of Justice and Equality and the former Minister would have been well aware that this Supreme Court decision was very heavily influenced by the emergence of a 2001 Director of Public Prosecutions report which found no evidence connecting Mr. Bailey to the murder. Moreover, it rubbished the Garda investigation of the time. Unfortunately, it took the former DPP, Mr. Eamonn Barnes, to intervene, after the High Court agreed to extradite Mr. Bailey, by e-mailing his former colleagues with very grave concerns. That forced the Department to hand over the document, which had been in its possession for all those years, to Mr. Bailey's legal team. It is quite clear that is what led to the Supreme Court decision. Despite this and reassurance from the former Minister, Deputy Shatter, that he would enter into dialogue with the Attorney General, nothing has happened since. Nothing has been done to reverse the injustice from all these years. As we assemble here today, the Department of Justice and Equality, on behalf of the State, continues to defend a civil case taken by Mr. Bailey and his partner, Ms Jules Thomas. This is more ongoing evidence of systemic failure and a lack of leadership as the issue drags on.

Our party has been critical of the unhealthy relationship between the offices of the Garda Commissioner and the Minister responsible for justice. It is not just about this Government as it affected previous Governments because of the system we have in place. In this Government's term the former Garda Commissioner, Martin Callinan, argued that the closure of 140 Garda stations and cuts of over 10% in Garda numbers, which take them below the dangerous threshold of 13,000, as well as decreases in the numbers of Garda vehicles amounted to efficiency, modernisation and smart policing. That was the language used by Mr. Callinan to defend the Government's approach to the outrage of his own members as expressed through the Garda Representative Association and the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors. On the other hand, the Minister of the day defended the Garda Commissioner from all attacks, as we saw with the penalty points issue.

The former Minister for Justice and Equality extended the former Garda Commissioner's term in office as a form of gratitude for the role he played in overseeing cutbacks in the period of transition. We should consider how the former Minister for Justice and Equality on national television used information given to him confidentially by the Garda Commissioner to do down a political opponent, Deputy Mick Wallace. When the inevitable vote of confidence before the House was called, the Government stood full square behind the Minister of the day, despite the fact that the same people had led the charge to remove a Minister for Defence, Deputy Willie O'Dea, when he did exactly the same thing.

We all know what happened with the penalty points issue. The former Minister's approach was of circling the wagons around the Garda Commissioner and senior Garda management and attempting to discredit the credibility of the whistleblowers by robustly challenging them on the plinth when the O'Mahony report was published. The Comptroller and Auditor General pretty much vindicated the allegations by former Garda John Wilson and Sergeant Maurice McCabe, and there was an infamous appearance before the Committee of Public Accounts by the former Garda Commissioner when he described the actions of the two whistleblowers as "disgusting". We also had a Garda Inspectorate report, and after two years of procrastination, the matters were referred to the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission.

We have also seen what happened to the confidential recipient when a transcript was released of the advice given to Sergeant Maurice McCabe. The confidential recipient was sacked as a result. There were allegations that the GSOC offices were bugged and the Taoiseach was advised clearly by the Department of Justice and Equality to wrongly quote the legislation which put the ombudsman under pressure rather than asking whether the offices were bugged. I hope Mr. Justice Cooke will get to the bottom of that issue. At the end of this debacle we witnessed the resignation of the Garda Commissioner.

There have been repeated crises and all this reflects the culture of politics in the Department of Justice and Equality and Garda Síochána, and that must change. I have recited these events to remind us of the challenges we face and of why public confidence has been shattered in the administration of justice. The Guerin report makes for devastating reading for the senior management of An Garda Síochána and the Department of Justice and Equality, with chapter 19 a damning indictment of the practices in the Department. There is an indication of an unhealthy practice of circling the wagons in order that objectives can be fulfilled. There is evidence of indiscipline and incompetence, which is a reflection of the appalling management which must be dealt with. I hope the Garda Inspectorate and this panel of experts will be able to deal with the issue. We will give the process a fair wind but the matter must be dealt with. It is once again a vindication of Sergeant Maurice McCabe.

The Opposition will give the Minister a fair wind and she has started with encouraging words. We must see firm actions and a new, independent policing authority. The Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality yesterday heard excellent contributions and questions on the issue and I ask the Minister and her officials to look through all the statements. Perhaps they have already done so.

We learned a lot and will make recommendations to the Minister.

We need a freshly empowered ombudsman and Garda Inspectorate. The Garda Inspectorate is looking for powers of initiation and we will support it in that. The inspectorate, led by three senior personnel, who have outstanding international experience, has a role to play but it needs to be free from the shackles of ministerial control. It needs to be independent and to have powers of initiation to fulfil its important responsibilities.

We need to ensure that lessons are learned from all the mistakes that have happened over the past three years. There must be a fresh start involving a clear-out of people who want to protect the bad old day while reformers who want real change and to vigorously restore confidence in the administration of justice should be promoted. I wish the Minister well in her work. As long as she moves in that direction, she will have my support and that of my party.

I join my colleague in wishing the Minister well and congratulating her on her appointment to what will no doubt prove to be the most challenging of ministerial roles within this Government. It would be hard to overstate the gravity of Mr. Guerin's findings on the handling of the evidence of Garda whistleblower, Sergeant Maurice McCabe.

In sum, Mr. Guerin found that Garda management, the Minister for Justice and Equality and the officials in his Department all failed to properly investigate the credible and detailed allegations of Garda corruption and misconduct that Sergeant McCabe provided to them on matters including the most serious crimes in our society. He found, in short, that this whistleblower was not alone ignored by those ultimately responsible for oversight, but was made to suffer for his actions in the public interest, in defence of the integrity of An Garda Síochána and the rights of his fellow citizens. I welcome the fact that Mr. Guerin's report fully vindicates the actions and intentions of Sergeant McCabe. It is appropriate to commend him again and to pay tribute to his family who undoubtedly suffered as he did. The Taoiseach's apology to Sergeant McCabe is welcome. He apologised for the delay and inaction around the allegations the sergeant brought forward. He might also have apologised for the unjustifiable and malicious treatment Sergeant McCabe received for doing the right thing. I welcome the move to restore Sergeant McCabe's access to the Police Using Leading Systems Effectively, PULSE, system and his ability to go about his duties as an upstanding member of An Garda Síochána.

What deeply concerns me, separate and apart from the report's findings with regard to the handling of Sergeant McCabe's evidence internally within the Garda Síochána management structures, is that the Guerin report has also exposed what appears to be a culture of concealment and cover-up of wrongdoing within the Department of Justice and Equality. Among other things, Mr. Guerin's findings concern what he calls "profound systems failures" that go beyond those within the Garda Síochána. This aspect of the report's findings deserves dedicated attention and concerted action and must not be glossed over by the Taoiseach or by the incoming Minister, Deputy Fitzgerald. Their credibility and that of the Government depends on dealing with these matters. I recognise and welcome the Minister's proposal for a review of her Department.

This state of affairs, as assessed by Mr. Guerin, has contributed to a growing crisis in public confidence in policing and in the administration of justice. This is, I submit, one result of a toxic political legacy involving successive Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael-led Administrations, whose actions and inaction permitted and possibly accelerated the rot that has become increasingly apparent in revelation after revelation and scandal after scandal over recent days, weeks and months.

It is very difficult to imagine a good reason or an innocent reason that could explain why Department officials and a Minister could receive detailed complaints of the nature of those raised by Sergeant Maurice McCabe regarding Garda misconduct and not initiate an independent investigation. The report reveals this is precisely what happened, but this is not all. According to paragraph 19.100, there was actually no evidence of any detailed assessment within the Department. Instead, according to paragraph 19.101, the Minister took the word of the Garda Commissioner without question or further analysis. This was despite the fact that the Minister had been asked to exercise two specific statutory functions: to initiate a special inquiry under section 42 of the Garda Síochána Act 2005, and to direct an investigation pursuant to the confidential reporting of corruption or malpractice under regulation 8(2) of the Garda Regulations 2007. That is astonishing.

Even after the publication of the Guerin report, we still do not know what happened, or why. That this is through no fault or failure of Mr. Guerin is made clear in paragraph 19.101, which states there is a near total absence of written records of any submissions made or advice given to the Minister by his officials, in particular at the times when the exercise of specific statutory functions by the Minister arose, and no written internal records of decisions made by the Minister.

The Guerin review was therefore unable to shed any light on the reasons for the approach adopted by the Minister to the exercise of those functions. That is extremely worrying, not least I imagine for the new Minister. These findings bring into question not only the competence of the former Minister, Deputy Alan Shatter, and that of the Secretary General, Brian Purcell and the Department they led. There is no doubt about the necessity for full disclosure, and the need for Mr. Purcell's attendance before the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice, Equality and Defence to answer its questions. We need the full facts of the practice in the Department, and the judgments made by the Minister and his officials, that led to this series of debacles. We also need the truth of the circumstances behind the Garda Commissioner's resignation, or "retirement" to use the word he prefers. There are at least four people in a position to provide this information: the former Commissioner, Martin Callinan; the Secretary General of the Department, Brian Purcell; the Secretary General to the Department of An Taoiseach, Martin Fraser, and the Taoiseach, yet none of these individuals has come forward yet to give full clarity and detail.

More broadly, Mr. Guerin's findings bring into question the competence not only of former Minister, Deputy Alan Shatter, but the succession of Ministers who preceded him, Michael McDowell, the late Brian Lenihan, Dermot Ahern and Brendan Smith. All of these former Ministers presided over the Department of Justice since the 2006 recommendations of Mr. Justice Morris, without implementing them. It would appear that for whatever reason, despite their seriousness, they were just not taken seriously. We need to know why.

Public interest demands that the commission of investigation to be established on foot of the Guerin report should have comprehensive terms of reference to examine the systems of management and accountability not only within the Garda Síochána, but also, notwithstanding the Minister's panel and review, the commission could usefully examine those management and accountability structures within the Department of Justice and Equality. The Minister should consider that.

Moreover, the commission should forensically examine the decisions and practices of the succession of Ministers in receipt of Mr. Justice Morris's recommendations and their senior officials. The public has a right to know the reason for ministerial and departmental inaction on these recommendations over more than six years and two Administrations.

The lessons need to be learned. They clearly were not learned on foot of the Morris tribunal report. There has been a good deal of talk quite correctly around the need for not only structural and oversight change within An Garda Síochána, but a cultural shift, and I believe that is true. My colleague, Deputy Mac Lochlainn referred to the need for a leadership that is open to and capable of delivering a new beginning to policing but there also needs to be a cultural shift within the Department and Government and among senior officials and Ministers who are charged to guard, protect and oversee the administration of justice and An Garda Síochána.

I join my colleagues in wishing the Minister every success in a very difficult and challenging role as Minister for Justice and Equality.

More than a month ago I was contacted by a serving member of An Garda Síochána who relayed to me very disturbing allegations in regard to Garda practices in the Westmeath division but not exclusive to that division. I subsequently met with this garda and have had a number of telephone conversations with him since. On the day that the former Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Alan Shatter, resigned, that garda called me and told me that as a result of that resignation he now had more faith in the confidential recipient process and was going to arrange a meeting. That meeting took place today.

Garda Keith Harrison claims that as a result of arresting a member of the drugs unit in Athlone for drunk driving, that Garda management maliciously set out targeting him while the arrested garda was afforded protection by Garda management. He claims that a managerial review of his high work returns and practices was instigated and persons who had past interactions with him in the execution of his duties were invited by the Garda to make complaints against him. He claims that during this period from September 2009 until March 2011, he was office-bound while the garda he arrested, who had been found with a high concentration of alcohol, was still driving official vehicles and carrying an official firearm. Garda Harrison makes serious claims about how the drunk driving case was struck out of court on dubious rulings and how evidence relating to the case was stolen by a member of the Garda. He also claims that a member of the Garda of officer rank stationed in the Westmeath division prevented successful prosecution of individuals in a number of cases.

On Monday, I met with Garda Harrison again. At that meeting there was also Garda Nicky Kehoe, who is another serving Garda whistleblower, and who has made serious claims in regard to the connection of a major heroin dealer in the midlands and a senior member of the drugs unit. Both those serving gardaí at that meeting were joined by former garda and prominent whistleblower, John Wilson, who is advising both men. I also invited our justice spokesperson, Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn, to attend which he did. At that meeting copies of sworn affidavits were given to me from both gardaí. Garda Harrison claims that he had suspicions about a member of the Garda who was working within the drugs unit who may have been knowingly allowing the sale and supply of drugs within the Athlone district and that he had raised this with management, but he claims that it fell on deaf ears. At that meeting I was also presented with a written record of a meeting between Garda Nicky Kehoe and a civilian who has come forward in recent days who corroborates the claims that have been made by Garda Kehoe in regard to heroin dealing and a member of the Garda.

It is not for me to investigate these claims. It is not for me to pass judgment on the members of the Garda whom I have spoken of today, but it is my duty to ask for reassurance on their behalf that they will not suffer any backlash from senior management while these claims are being investigated because some of these claims are against the most senior ranks within An Garda Síochána. I have nothing but respect for the rank and file members of the Garda who are carrying out their duties in very difficult circumstances but where there is wrong it must be rooted out, where there is cover-up, the truth must come to the surface, and where whistleblowers come forward, they must be protected.

Garda Harrison - who in 2007 was invited to Áras an Uachtaráin to receive from President McAleese his award for bravery for his second life-saving incident - in his own words sums up the fear of those who have come forward and those who are thinking of coming forward. In his sworn affidavit he said:

I was once a well-respected, ambitious and unblemished member of An Garda Síochána. Through systematic and relentless bullying and intimidation and unmerited scrutiny, I have, in my view, been totally undermined and destroyed. My good name and that of my family has also been tarnished and I now feel I have no option but to take this action. I feel I could not address this prior to now as who was I to turn and have faith in them to do the right thing? Who would believe me over Garda management? Would I make an unbearable situation worse for myself, by turning on the wolves that preyed on me? Never in my life have I felt so alone, tortured and disappointed. I have huge concerns about my future in An Garda Síochána and how much more is going to be thrown my way.

It is important that if we are to learn the lessons of the Guerin report that we make sure that any garda who comes forward with whatever claims is not subject to the bullying, harassment and intimidation to which those who went before them were subject. I praise anybody who comes forward. I hope that those claims will be investigated thoroughly in a manner that was not done previously in regard to the claims we are dealing with today in terms of the Guerin report.

The next group of speakers is Deputies Clare Daly, Mick Wallace and Finian McGrath and they will have ten minutes each. I note Deputy Wallace will speak first.

The former Minister for Justice and Equality is gone because he failed to properly deal with the challenges of policing in Ireland. The challenges did not begin on his watch. Several who held the office before him ignored the obvious. For 18 months at least the former Minister refused to deal fairly and openly with the different issues brought to his attention. Instead he chose to minimise and dismiss and to stand solid with the former Garda Commissioner long after he was exposed. Gradually, the Minister's position became indefensible, which led to us calling for his resignation repeatedly since last December. I was very surprised that the Government of the day stood so solid with him despite the glaring evidence that he was not doing his job properly.

The Guerin report, from our point of view, is not anything new because we heard most of these stories back in 2012 and raised some of them in this Chamber and at a press conference in December 2012 but nobody really wanted to know. Garda Sergeant Maurice McCabe had outlined how practices, procedures and cover up was the order of the day and nobody seemed to want to face up to the truth about that. It is good that Mr. Guerin has called a spade a spade because it helps to move matters forward in a positive way.

Since then our offices have been snowed under with stories and reports from different people and I do not know how it will all be dealt with. There are hundreds of them and they are very sad to listen to. I do not know how this should be handled but something will have to be done. One such story comes from a former garda called Jack Doyle. His story gained some attention around 2000. He revealed some serious drug involvement by gardaí in the Cork area and at the time the Garda authorities confirmed that undercover gardaí had been involved in the importation of illegal drugs into the State in what they described as controlled operations. However, a spokesman said that these operations were necessary in order to bring the leaders of criminal drug gangs to justice. Garda management rejected calls for an inquiry into claims made by Jack Doyle, saying nothing inappropriate had occurred.

We got a 27 page report from Jack Doyle into the background to what went on. I will read less than a page of it. He was speaking with one of the drug runners with whom he had become acquainted:

He recounted to me how they had many opportunities to arrest the boss of the criminal gang but failed to do so. When asked why, he replied, "They have a senior garda in their pocket." He then recounted an incident in Rosslare when he was returning with a shipment of drugs. A customs officer stopped him and was about to search his jeep when two plain-clothes gardaí commandeered the jeep and drove out of the terminal at speed, being pursued by customs officers. A high-speed chase ensued and the gardaí lost their pursuers. As a result of this incident he said he would never personally bring drugs in again.

He then proceeded to tell me about the many runs he had done, bringing in cocaine, ecstasy, cannabis and firearms. Massive amounts of drugs were coming in and quantities were allowed to get into the hands of the criminal gang. He told me how he was being well looked after financially by both the criminal gang and the gardaí.

He then went on to tell me where he had left a handgun in a wooden area in Cork. He contacted a particular detective sergeant and told him of the location, and drawing a map in the area pinpointed it. On finding the location, two gardaí threw in a number of firearms to beef up the find. He explained that the press reported it as a subversive arms find. When I asked him why they would do this, he replied, "To further their careers in the force."

Their careers have progressed and one of them is now an assistant commissioner. He was appointed by the former Minister, Deputy Shatter, and this same individual was involved in the Boylan case which entails a very similar story to Jack Doyle's. Jack Doyle's career did not progress. He turned up at his place of work one day and was told, "Jack, you're not coming in here. You'd better go home. You're finished, Jack. But, listen, you'll be grand; we'll look after your pension." He was forcibly retired. That one of the gardaí involved is now an assistant commissioner - he could actually be the next Commissioner - emphasises how important it is that the new Commissioner should come from outside the State with a new hierarchy built around him or her as otherwise problems will not go away.

There is no point in us kicking the former Minister anymore given that he is gone. However, I was really surprised that the Government chose to ignore so much evidence brought to its attention over the past 18 months. It started with the penalty points and the internal inquiry. At that time a confidential Garda memo was sent to all members of the force warning them to stay silent and nobody in the Government seemed to be worried about that. The O'Mahony report was a whitewash and has long been discredited. It offended the rule against bias because it had members of the Garda investigating itself. The constitutional rule of hearing the other side, of course, was not adhered to because the whistleblowers were not interviewed.

The Garda Inspectorate only got the reports under political pressure two months after the Minister got them and it was really just putting a sheen of legitimacy on the whole affair. I spoke about the Garda Síochána Bill earlier today. The Fine Gael, Labour and Fianna Fáil parties all voted against it and Deputies queued up in here to tell us how wonderful everything was in the force even though the dogs in the street knew otherwise. They also knew, but there is no culture of holding the Garda Síochána to account because there are no votes in it.

The GSOC Boylan report was damning and its annual report, giving out about the lack of co-operation from gardaí, is really serious. However, sadly, members of the Government actually challenged the credibility of GSOC on a repeated basis during this period. When GSOC asked for access to PULSE in September 2013, it was refused. However, under political pressure at a later stage, in February, it was given access.

It was outrageous that GSOC was not allowed to use section 106 to investigate the Roma children affair. Nor was it allowed to use the racial profiling charge to be part of the terms of reference. Once the former Garda Commissioner said it did not happen, the former Minister said that was okay with him. The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance report of February 2013 stated otherwise and found that gardaí engage in racial profiling, but the Government also ignored that and did not want to know.

The GSOC bugging allegation is one of the most serious of all. It was frightening how poorly GSOC was treated at that time. I also find it frightening that Mr. Simon O'Brien of GSOC would come out and say that he had 100% confidence in the then Commissioner and the then Minister for Justice and Equality when I know that he did not. I wonder if he went over to the dark side. Was this an effort to stop rocking the boat?

Terrible things happened at the Corrib gas protests and the previous Government refused to allow GSOC to use section 106 to investigate them. When we asked the former Minister, Deputy Shatter, he also refused to allow it to look at practices, policies and procedures used by the force at the Corrib gas protests. There is no point investigating individual complaints about individual gardaí because all they would catch would be the foot soldiers and not the people who made the decisions.

So many efforts have been made to bring the truth out and it just beggars belief that the Government has had no appetite for it. Even the former Minister's apology to the whistleblowers had the caveat that the whistleblowers had not been proved right in all their allegations, which was really disappointing. They were never examined, except by Assistant Commissioner O'Mahoney who gave no evidence for any of his findings.

Throughout this affair, like the former Minister for Justice and Equality who was reactive rather than proactive, the Government has been reactive and not proactive, reactionary and not reforming. If the Government wants to restore the people's confidence in the Garda Síochána and in policing, and if it wants the people to believe that justice is fairly administered in this country, there is a lot of work to do. Serious questions need to be asked in many areas. We do not do transparency and accountability very well in Ireland, but it is so important that we do it now for policing.

The Minister referred to the report's findings as being deeply disturbing and went on to talk about the wider systemic and historical problems in the force. That is the context of this discussion because, as Deputy Wallace has said, for us the Guerin report revealed nothing new. It was just an absolute and utter vindication of the stories we have heard and the experiences we have had over the past two years or do. Most striking was how similar Mr. Guerin's conclusions were to the points we have been making repeatedly in this House, in many instances to ridicule from the Government benches and indeed from some members of the Opposition.

In the main the Guerin report deals with instances in great detail, including the accounts of injustices and insufficient investigations in a number of serious incidents in the Bailieboro area which have had tragic consequences for all of the participants. It then goes on to deal with the issue of the Garda itself. What is striking is the pattern of not properly investigating things, the pattern of investigations being heard. In many instances internally, the complaints of Sergeant Maurice McCabe were actually upheld, but no action was subsequently taken. Mr. Guerin referred to insubordination, a certain lawlessness and so on. We have to be mindful that the people in these stories were people who in many instances had become the victims of crime and had turned to An Garda Síochána for help, which rather than helping actually compounded the difficulty. That is the legacy we are dealing with.

The Guerin report deals with the former Minister for Justice and Equality's absolute abdication of his statutory role in dealing with these matters and the higher echelons of the Department of Justice and Equality. What screamed out at one was the point we made that none of this could have happened without the special relationship that existed both in law and personally between the former Minister for Justice and Equality and the former Garda Commissioner. That relationship led to all of this because, as I said before, the Minister did not do nothing; he went to the Garda Commissioner and asked him about these things, was told a version of events and he just blindly accepted that without even seeing the reports to back that up.

Policing problems are not new. There have been horrific cases over the decades - well in advance of this Government's lifetime - including the 1984 murder of Patrick Nugent in Bunratty, believed to have been at the hands of gardaí and staged as a car accident, the brutal death of 14 year old Brian Rossiter in a Garda station in Tipperary, the fitting up of Nicky Kelly for the train robbery, the Kerry babies case, Abbeylara, Donegal, the repeated United Nations reports on the appalling policing scenario in Corrib and so on. Who is the Government trying to con by saying we did not know about these things? We knew about these things. What made it absolutely worse, and this is the legacy with which the Minister has to deal, is that all of the people, or most of them, who were involved in the heavy gang in the Nicky Kelly case were promoted, as were all of those involved in the Kerry babies case. In the midst of the Guerin report, we saw that the initial investigation and complaint with which Sergeant Maurice McCabe went to the confidential recipient was about the promotion, or putting on a panel for promotion, of somebody who had stood over other lawlessness. What really struck me was the correspondence in the report from the confidential recipient who spelled out to the Minister that, in his opinion, it would undermine decent gardaí and send a wrong signal to promote somebody like that and yet the complaint was not upheld. For us, probably what was really sickening in reading the report - apart from the fact everybody listened to Mr. Guerin but nobody seemed to care that much when we said it - was the level of correspondence that existed in the Department from Sergeant Maurice McCabe and his solicitors, about which we had no knowledge, and stuff we did not know, which it knew. We made points in the House about which we were being rubbished and yet the Department had information which absolutely backed up what we were saying.

This is important because, like the case referred to by Deputy Wallace about former Garda Jack Doyle and the way he was forced out, the Kieran Boylan case shocked the nation. GSOC put its colours to the mast on that one but, in essence, Jack Doyle's story was a forerunner to that where the gardaí basically ran a drug runner and were playing both sides of the camp. The allegation is that somebody in the very high ranks of An Garda Síochána currently was involved in the Boylan case and in that case decades before. I mention the points made by Deputy Doherty, which were previously made by Deputy Luke 'Ming' Flanagan during Leaders' Questions, about the number of sitting gardaí who are reporting instances of gardaí being involved in drug running and so on. We certainly have cases of that. This is a systemic problem.

Now we will have one commission, or two, three or four commissions. We need more than that. The Government has said we need to look at this in a bigger way, with an independent police authority. Professor Dermot Walsh, who is an expert in policing, put this very much in the best way when he said it is less than ten years since the Morris tribunal and all of the reforms promised since then have not worked and asked what is to say that these commissions will yield anything better. They will not yield anything better, although I am not saying we should not have them, but we need something bigger. We need a Patten-style commission where we step out from the ranks of what is there and say what we want in a modern police force in Ireland. The first thing is that we do not want a police force but a police service which is held accountable to the population. The problem with the commission of investigation is that it will deal with specific allegations in Bailieboro. We know of other instances around the country. There are uninvestigated deaths in Tullamore, the pain of the Touhey family and of the Goonan family, incidents in Limerick and malpractice in Cork. I know that Ian Bailey's solicitors were in correspondence with the Taoiseach this week. His legal team put the cost to the State and the taxpayer over the 18 years of the Garda efforts to frame him as being roughly between €40 million and €50 million in Garda overtime and resources. Meanwhile, the murderer of Sophie Toscan du Plantier is still out there and Ian Bailey and his partner have been vindicated, but they have had a horrendous time.

As Deputy Wallace said, there is so much hurt out there as well as cases and we are absolutely snowed under. Citizens and gardaí are coming forward now. It is a good thing that there is an openness developing. I do not know how the Minister will deal with that but there has to be some form of a truth and reconciliation forum because these instances are opening up the hurt many people have experienced. Over the past week, many people have got in touch with us. An event happened to them in their lives before where they were not treated fairly by the gardaí and they suffered other consequences after that and they have not been able to get over it. We need to acknowledge that and deal with it in some way by an apology or whatever.

We need to look at the role of whistleblowers. Sergeant Maurice McCabe and former Garda John Wilson have done the State an enormous service. The Minister should be aware that when the Acting Commissioner acted on her instructions and gave Sergeant Maurice McCabe back access to PULSE, the letter he got was a two-page epistle, four paragraphs of which screamed about his data protection responsibilities as if he, in some way, again had done something wrong when he followed the letter of the law all the way. One has to ask if anything has changed.

I have made the point before that I am aware the former Garda Commissioner requested that the four Garda representative organisations issue a public statement of no confidence in GSOC at the time of the bugging affair. That is absolutely scandalous because GSOC is not fit for office as an institution and, in fairness, the GSOC commissioners were the first people to flag that and say that the way in which that organisation has been constituted means that it is toothless. We need to look at that. The Garda putting out statements to undermine it, bad and all as it is, is not good enough.

The former Minister failed in his statutory duty and diminished and downplayed these concerns and left us with an appalling mess which, unfortunately, the Minister has to clean up. I know the other Deputies congratulated her and I wish her well but I was nearly going to commiserate with her given the scale of the task. The Taoiseach has reinvented himself as being a champion of these issues. There is a long list of correspondence from Sergeant Maurice McCabe with the Taoiseach on these issues but he did not want to know. In fairness, Deputy Wallace said before that his support for the Minister would go from 100% to 0% overnight and that is, in essence, what happened. The Tánaiste has been gormlessly wandering around, seemingly oblivious to all of what is going on. The Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality is hearing submissions from organisations which have already put them on the public record years ago in terms of what needs to be done.

We need to move on the new police board as soon as possible. We need something bigger than that - a root and branch review, a Patten-style commission on what we want in policing and some form of reconciliation for all of the damaged gardaí and citizens.

I wish the Minister well and congratulate her. It is very honourable position but a very difficult one to have. I thank the Leas-Cheann Comhairle for the opportunity to speak on this urgent and important report which led to the resignation of the former Minister for Justice and Equality. I thank and commend Mr. Guerin on his work. I also thank, commend and pay tribute to Sergeant Maurice McCabe and former Garda John Wilson. They have done the State a great service and it is important we all acknowledge that in this debate. It is also important to learn from the huge mistakes and major acts carried out against citizens. Let us not forget about the real victims of this affair.

We must also learn, move on and build a more modern and inclusive police service. The stress should be on it being a policing service. The Guerin report is about reform, accountability and building a good policing service. That is what we in this House all want. That is the only way forward for all of the victims, gardaí and the wider community. Nobody is excluded from that type of reform and accountability.

I welcome that the Secretary General of the Department of Justice and Equality has agreed to come before the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality. There can be no preconditions. All questions have to be answered properly and thoroughly. That is what public servants should do. Public servants equal public service. There are no ifs or buts, just clear answers and accountability. The same applies to Ministers, Deputies, Senators, gardaí, teachers, nurses and other public servants. Their role is to serve the public. It is stated very clearly in section 93 of the Houses of the Oireachtas (Inquiries, Privileges and Procedures) Act. I look forward to the debate in two weeks time.

The details and conclusions of the Guerin report are shocking and damning. They make for sad reading, in particular chapter 19.32 which lists a number of incidents: the three incidents involving Gerry McGrath, outlined in chapter 6 of the report; the assault and false imprisonment of the girl in Cootehill on 2 September 2007, outlined in chapter 8; the public order incident on the bus at Kingscourt on 25 February 2007; the alleged concealment of the document compiled by Inspector Delta outlining problems at the Bailieboro station, which is covered in chapter 16; the dangerous driving incident at Lakeside Manor on St. Stephen’s night in 2007; the loss of a computer seized in an investigation; the assault in a public house in Bailieboro on 23 May 2007, which is covered in chapter 10; the harassment and sexual harassment of a female probationer garda, which is covered in chapter 14; and the public order incident in Bailieboro on 5 August 2007. They are some of the many incidents mentioned in the report.

Chapter 19.33 reads: “It has sent out a message to the force that if you ignore your duty, are grossly negligent, hide and cover up, you will be deemed suitable for promotions.” That is a very important statement in the report. I talk to members of the Garda regularly. Family members serve in the force. They talk about the need for a meritocracy within the Garda Síochána. Once one gets above the rank of sergeant, promotion seems to be based on political decisions. We need to depoliticise promotion. A garda who is good at dealing with the drugs issue locally or who is good at dealing with Travellers is the kind of person we need to promote in the force. Such people must be brought to the top.

Colleagues mentioned many cases that have been brought to their attention. I, too, wish to mention a number of cases. The first is the horrific death of Shane Tuohey from Tullamore, County Offaly. I was contacted by his sister, Gemma Tuohey Guinan. She asked us all to fight for justice for her brother, Shane. She attached a breakdown list of numerous problems which arose from Shane’s death which clearly showed that Garda corruption played a huge role in the cover-up of what took place that fateful night. She also said her father, Eamonn, had a meeting some time ago with Marie Cassidy who kindly showed him Dr. Harbison’s notes. The notes clearly stated that Dr. Harbison was called to do the autopsy on Shane as a special request from the then assistant commissioner. It is clear as time goes by that the case gets worse. The family feel they are a lot closer to getting answers. Gemma says they will keep fighting for justice for Shane regardless of how long it takes. That is one case which I raised a couple of years ago when I got my slot on Leaders’ Questions.

Another case that needs to be examined is that of Shane O’Farrell. I accept that some work has begun on it. On 2 October 2011, Shane O’Farrell was killed on the side of a road by a drug addict who had more than 40 previous convictions and was at large because of two suspended sentences imposed by courts on both sides of the Border. A significant issue arises in regard to the case also. It is important that we listen to the hurt and pain of his mother, Lucia O’Farrell. Shane’s family believe the justice system let them down.

Another case with which the Minister might be familiar relates to a protestor at the Kildare Street gate of Leinster House for the past nine or ten years, namely, Peter Preston. His daughter was assaulted in a public house. She was stabbed in the face with a glass by a member of a north side criminal gang. Mr. Preston made serious allegations about a cover-up of the case. I raised the matter previously and I was not satisfied with the response. The files are in the Department of Justice and Equality and I urge the new Minister to examine the serious allegations made. It is important we deal with them if we are trying to build up accountability.

I welcome the fact that the Government is to establish an independent Garda authority. That is a sensible and progressive approach. The new Garda authority’s powers should include the power to commission inspections and inquiries by the Garda Inspectorate. An Garda Síochána should be able to make disclosures to those prescribed under section 62(5) of the 2005 Act as well as the confidential recipient and the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission without fear of disciplinary action. The Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission should be strengthened by the provision of a statutory right to access the PULSE database and the power to investigate reports made against the Commissioner under Regulation 7(2) of the Garda Síochána (Confidential Reporting of Corruption or Malpractice) Regulations 2007. It is also important that the post of confidential recipient should be retained and enhanced.

The Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality held hearings with a number of groups, some of whom made excellent submissions. I hope the committee and the Government will listen to many of their ideas. We also need new approaches to deal with minor complaints to facilitate effective resolution. Those who ask questions about the Garda should never be deemed to be anti-Garda. We all have friends and family members who serve in the Garda. We also have excellent gardaí. However, massive corruption took place within the Garda Síochána and that must be dealt with.

New approaches are also required to deal with serious complaints. The Garda Commissioner must become subject to oversight. Currently, the Act states that "a member of the Garda Síochána" does not include the Garda Commissioner and therefore that officeholder is outside the remit of GSOC. I strongly support the belief that effective oversight of policing and public confidence therein favours the Garda Commissioner being subject to independent oversight and the legislation should be changed to allow for that. It is very important we would examine such issues.

We all want a policing service and good and effective police officers. We want public service at its best. We want police officers to be decent, honest and to do their job. We know there are times when people make mistakes. We all make mistakes, but I refer to serious complaints, corruption and major allegations. We are not talking about human error in mistakes such as those. Given some of the cases I mentioned today, we need a police force that is professional, ethical, inclusive, democratic and accountable to citizens. We cannot have a situation where people feel they cannot trust their own local Garda service. That is something we must address. Trust has been damaged but I wish the Minister well as she tries to rebuild trust. I will be satisfied if she achieves that.