Guerin Report: Statements (Resumed)

I welcome the appointment of Deputy Frances Fitzgerald as Minister for Justice and Equality. I had the pleasure of serving with her in Seanad Éireann and of working with her as Chairman of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Health and Children. I know she will bring to this brief a determination, compassion and sense of right. I look forward to working with her as Minister with responsibility for equality in the context of progressing the family relations Bill and the proposed referendum on marriage equality.

The Acting Chairman, Deputy Byrne, Deputy Jonathan O'Brien and I are all very much immersed in our communities. One of the most fundamental parts of a community is the relationship between it and An Garda Síochána. I have the pleasure of being a member of the Cork City Joint Policing Committee, Cork County Joint Policing Committee and the Passage West Joint Policing Committee. I also attend many community fora. At all times members of An Garda Síochána who attend these fora, from the rank of garda to chief superintendent, are committed, dedicated police officers whose only motivation is to do their jobs well, serve the people of their communities and ensure they can live in a crime and hassle free community.

It is extraordinary that we are again today discussing matters pertaining to An Garda Síochána. I commend Mr. Guerin on the publication of his 300 plus page report. I must confess I have not read all of it but I have read a lot of it. I found some of the language therein difficult to understand and had to read it again. As stated by the Minister previously, the report is deeply disturbing. There can be no ambiguity surrounding the men and women of An Garda Síochána. I pay tribute at this juncture in my remarks to the men and women of An Garda Síochána who do tremendous good and put their lives at risk every day.

It should not be forgotten that only a few short years ago particular Members of this House were part of an organisation which threatened to undermine An Garda Síochána and the State. I am not in this regard speaking about Deputy Jonathan O'Brien although I am sure he knows about whom I am speaking.

I do not. Perhaps Deputy Buttimer would name them.

I will put it on the record.

Deputy Buttimer may not do so.

They were members of the Provisional IRA who tried to kidnap gardaí and who killed members of An Garda Síochána, the armed Defence Forces and Members of the Oireachtas.

As Members of this House, we are charged with the responsibility of protecting and defending the institutions of this State, including An Garda Síochána. We must never forget that.

That said, An Garda Síochána is not above the law and there cannot at any time be one rule for them and one rule for us. The fundamental task and role of An Garda Síochána is protection of our citizens and the investigation and conclusion of criminal matters. From my experience, the Garda Síochána in Cork city are fine officers who do this in a myriad of ways, be that through their official engagement in policing forums, their role as community gardaí and, often, their engagement off-duty in terms of the assistance they provide to young and elderly people who are at risk and not at risk and through their involvement in clubs and organisations across all parts of Cork city. This is work for which they are not paid but volunteer. I compliment them on doing so.

The Guerin report is one step on the road to the restoration of the reputation of and confidence in An Garda Síochána within society. I welcome the establishment of the commission of investigation. It is important we thank and pay tribute to former Minister, Deputy Shatter, for his work in the Department of Justice and Equality. We are always quick to airbrush and forget people. The former Minister, Deputy Shatter, is a decent person and an honest and honourable man whose only motivation was to do right by the people and the institutions of this State.

There is a malaise of issues surrounding An Garda Síochána that need to be addressed, be that the bugging of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission, the penalty points issue or the treatment of whistleblowers. It is important that this catalogue of issues is addressed. It is imperative that the fundamentals of An Garda Síochána are restored and that as citizens we can have full confidence in the force and, in particular, its management, organisation and structuring. Despite the populism of some Members opposite and the media, the Government has acted. It has established an independent expert review of performance, management and administration of the Department of Justice and Equality, strengthened the Garda Ombudsman Commission, established the commission of investigation, commissioned the Garda inspectorate to carry out a comprehensive inquiry into serious crime investigation and management and operational and procedural issues, the establishment of an independent Garda authority and the appointment of a new Garda Commissioner to be made by an independent appointments body.

I would like to pay tribute to the Acting Garda Commissioner, Nóirín O'Sullivan, who has been a revelation and a breadth of fresh air. Only last week, she spoke at launch of the Dublin Pride Festival. What a monumental statement that was in the context of the role of An Garda Síochána in 21st century Ireland. I commend her bravery and initiative on doing so. There is much cacophony about An Garda Síochána. The Acting Garda Commissioner had the integrity, foresight and vision to speak at the launch of Dublin Pride. Only a few short years ago, despite the best efforts of Sergeant Paul Franey and others of G-Force, gardaí were not allowed to march in uniform when the European conference of gardaí was in Dublin. I was thrilled when Acting Garda Commissioner O'Sullivan spoke at Dublin Pride. I look forward to the day when the Garda Commissioner, the Minister for Justice and Equality of whatever hue, Opposition spokespersons on justice and other Members of this House will march in the Dublin Pride Festival, sending out the message that An Garda Síochána and we as legislators are changing and want an open, tolerant and inclusive society. I hope that the 2014 report in relation to An Garda Síochána will record that event of last week as significant. It was fantastic.

We are told that lightening never strikes twice.

However, the Morris tribunal is now being replaced by the Guerin report, the Cooke report, the commission of investigation and a host of others measures.

Let me outline what we and the Minister must do. I have absolute confidence in the Minister because I know her. The legacy issues that she has inherited, arising from a decade or more of incompetence and inactivity by the Fianna Fáil party and its people in office, will be addressed once and for all. Irrespective of the result of the local elections last week, the people want these matters addressed. They want to see a new way in which the Garda appoints sergeants, inspectors and commissioners. The Minister is appointing a Commissioner. The people want new means by which gardaí interact with one another and by which the Garda will tolerate different points of view. This does not apply just to the Garda; it applies to every organisation requiring cultural and institutional change.

It is important that we consider the treatment of whistleblowers. As one who was for many years in a minority position and perhaps afraid to make remarks and come out, I believe whistleblowers must be given the opportunity to comment, no matter who or where they are, even if they are outside the Garda. That is why I look forward to the bringing forward of the protected disclosures legislation.

It is imperative that we regard Sergeant McCabe as an example and allow whistleblowers, irrespective of who they are, an opportunity to have their voices heard and their allegations or grievances aired in an appropriate manner. We all work in institutions with human beings. I worked in a staff room where there were differences of opinion as to how the school should be developed or run. However, we were given a platform at staff meetings and we had the ability to approach the principal and make remarks. Some were taken on board and others were ignored. That is life; none of us has a monopoly on knowledge. I hope we allow people to make their cases and that they will not be prejudged. I hope they will not be hindered or treated differently in any way. A whistleblower may not be always right but sometimes he or she may be. We must develop protocols.

This also applies to information received by politicians. There are times when we receive sensitive information that must be passed on. We should have some type of ombudsman for ourselves. Through parliamentary questions, the Ceann Comhairle serves as that person.

I wish to conclude by making a number of points on the education and training of gardaí. We have initiated reform regarding the recruitment of gardaí. It is important that we examine how we train and educate young gardaí before we let them into the community to serve as members. While we need to bear in mind mental health, dealing with minorities, domestic violence and stress, I believe from reading the Guerin report that it is also important that we examine how we can look after probationary gardaí and young gardaí who have just emerged from training. We must support the latter and develop them through on-the-job training, professional development and support.

Consider the issue of internal promotion in the Garda. I hope we will have a system in which people will be promoted on merit or their ability to serve at the rank of sergeant, inspector, superintendent, chief superintendent or even assistant commissioner. It is important that we consider this.

If one were to examine the Guerin report, one would be disturbed and concerned. The Minister speaks about fundamental reform and the opportunity to bring about real and lasting change. It is absolutely the case that there is such an opportunity but it is important that we assure the public that the majority of serving gardaí are trustworthy, honourable and decent and do the right thing every day. We must not forget that they put themselves at risk every day and night on our behalf.

If we are to have the far-reaching change that is sought, there should be buy-in on all sides regarding responsibility and co-operation with An Garda Síochána. It is important that all of us in this House and society have but one police force. I look forward to the reform. From working with the gardaí in Cork, I realise these men and women are changing the model of policing every single day, putting people first and changing the perception of many of the force. Regardless of whether it is a question of dealing with domestic violence, family law, sport or the elderly, the Garda Síochána is central to what we do and how we change. This is just the beginning but it requires all of us to collaborate and not to score political points.

I agree with Deputy Buttimer's concluding remark, that is, that we should not be scoring political points. It is disappointing that the Deputy started his speech with political point-scoring. Nevertheless, I agree with much of what he said. He and I work in Cork city with some fine members of the Garda, including in the Gurranabraher district. I will not name the superintendent in that district but Deputy Buttimer will know to whom I am referring. The district is one where there used to be very high crime levels and many challenges. Community policing was dreamed of and we put in place a man who brought back policing in the area to grassroots level. He did so because he came from and grew up in that community, as Deputy Buttimer will know. He has the honour of serving as a senior member of An Garda Síochána in that community and he almost has ownership of a certain model of policing in that vicinity, and that pays dividends. He has a lot of respect from members of the community.

There is no doubt that, in the past ten years, the Garda Síochána has changed its type of policing in the State, but that is not to say it is perfect. There are still individuals in the force who are opposed to change and whom I believe do not uphold the best within it. This is not unique to An Garda Síochána; one will find it in every police force in every state in the world. It is just a reflection of society. When an organisation such as the Garda Síochána reflects society, it is only natural to presume there always will be one or two bad apples.

What the Guerin report actually highlighted was that it was not just a case of the failings of one or two individuals at a low level in the Garda but of failure at senior level to investigate complaints of malpractice and corruption submitted to the Department by a serving member of the force. Not only did the gardaí fail to investigate the matter, they set out to ruin the reputation of an honourable member of the force, a fellow colleague. In doing so, they brought shame on the organisation of which they were members.

The Minister has found herself in a position in which she must now pick up the pieces and try to restore public confidence in the Garda Síochána. That will not be an easy task. However, it is essential that there be success because no country can exist if it has a police force that does not have the full confidence of the citizens it is meant to protect.

The Minister has initiated a number of proposals within her Department and a review is ongoing, although I am not sure when it is due to conclude, as I am sure she has been consumed by the elections for the past few weeks. She has given a commitment to establish an independent policing authority and that the new Commissioner will be appointed independently, all of which are vital small steps on the way to restoring public confidence. The only issue I have with what has been announced so far concerns the Garda Inspectorate being asked to examine the investigation procedures in cases involving serious crime. I have concerns about whether it is right for the Garda Inspectorate to be involved.

The Guerin report is approximately 326 pages long. While I have read all of it, it is a document which needs to be read three or four times to absorb it. As the Minister said, it has some deeply disturbing elements. There is a huge challenge in that regard, but I believe it is one we can overcome collectively. There are many good members of the force who are serving communities every single day, just as there are many good members of society who aspire to be members of An Garda Síochána. My own son has undertaken the process to try to become one of the new recruits. When he first approached me and said he was thinking about it, I said: “If that is what you want to do, then that is what you want to do.” He sees it as a vocation and I am sure there are many members of the force who see it not just as a job but as a vocation. They have a sincere interest in improving the communities they represent and helping others, including the most vulnerable in society. They see it is a vocation to protect those who are unable to protect themselves and not only to protect them but also to give them a voice.

I believe the recent controversies, in particular about the penalty points system, GSOC and the failings of the Department of Justice and Equality and senior members of An Garda Síochána to investigate the allegations of corruption and malpractice made by whistleblowers, have done nothing but damage public confidence in An Garda Síochána. We wish the Minister well in her attempts to address that issue. However, as Deputy Jerry Buttimer pointed out, we have been here before. We had recommendations on the back of the Morris tribunal that were not implemented and nobody has given a formal explanation as to why they fell by the wayside. Any commission of investigation will need to investigate all aspects which led to where we find ourselves today. I hope that at the end of the commission of investigation we will have the answers. However, it is one thing having the answers; we also need the political commitment and political will to make the changes that are necessary. Sometimes, that means standing up to those elements within the Department and An Garda Síochána who will resist the type of reform needed and telling them that this type of policing is no longer acceptable. In 2014 we need a police force which is representative of the community, works on its behalf and is willing to work with it to tackle crime and improve the social and community environment. It is not just about the policing of communities.

As I said, we wish the Minister well. We look forward to whatever necessary legislation will be brought forward. We hope we can move into 2015 in a much better place and with much more public confidence in An Garda Síochána.

I welcome the opportunity to contribute to this debate on the Guerin report. I begin by congratulating Deputy Frances Fitzgerald on her appointment as Minister for Justice and Equality. She has a reforming zeal that is going to be needed and tested in the Department at this very difficult juncture for the justice system. I wish her the very best and have no doubt about her abilities in that regard.

This is a very difficult time to be a member of An Garda Síochána and to work in the Department of Justice and Equality. It is important when we have this public discourse to recognise that reality and, as other speakers have, that the overwhelming majority who get up and put on the uniform in the morning, go out and patrol the streets and keep us safe, have protected the State from subversion, just like the public and civil servants in the Department, are doing a very fine and honourable job. Just as we have seen in so many other sectors, including the charity sector, this House when it is brought into dispute, the church and other institutions, we cannot tar everybody with the same brush. That, however, is not to take away from the seriousness of the issues dealt with in the report and the other issues brought to light. Nonetheless, it is important to express my gratitude to all those who serve the State with distinction, be it in the Department of Justice and Equality or when they don the uniform and patrol the streets as members of An Garda Síochána.

While it is difficult to be a member of the Garda at this time and morale is low, it is also a very difficult time to be a whistleblower. We have a very bad culture, reputation, history and track record when it comes to how we treat whistleblowers. I do not believe this is confined to one party or one Government. It is an issue the State has to address because we do not have a good record when it comes to whistleblowers. In his report Mr. Guerin captured it more much more articulately than I ever could when he said we had a situation where a critical voice was in danger of being heard as a contrary voice. He said: "The whistleblower, like the referee from whom he gets his name, is seen as someone who is not on the team." To be frank, as somebody who sat through the hearings at the Committee of Public Accounts with the then Garda Commissioner, Mr. Callinan, it was very clear that the top brass of An Garda Síochána viewed whistleblowers and dissenting voices as "not on the team". That is the problem. One can engage in all the guff about An Garda Síochána as a disciplined force, but that is an issue on the margins and there is no disputing that reality. However, one has to have in every force and every facet of society the ability to hear different views and divergent voices. It is clear that this culture was not and possibly is not in place within An Garda Síochána and many other areas. That presents a challenge for the Minister.

The Guerin report, at page 330, is littered with compliments paid to Sergeant McCabe by his superiors. He is described by a chief superintendent as "very positive and energetic," with "a strong work ethic" and "a strong emphasis in community policing." Another detective superintendent describes him as "capable and enthusiastic," while at all times he was found to be "efficient." A retired superintendent describes him as "an excellent Sergeant and member" and says "he offered 200% commitment." Another superintendent describes him as "efficient, flexible and committed" and says "He was diligent in the performance of his duties." As a state, we sneered at him - not the Minister or me personally, but he was sneered at and belittled. This does not mean, because I do not know, that he or any other whistleblower is right in everything they say. We have commissions and structures to determine and adjudicate on that issue. However, he was sneered at. If he was sneered at, how many other whistleblowers have been sneered at? At the Committee of Public Accounts we saw a huge display of sneering. That has to end. In fairness, the comments of the Minister, Deputy Frances Fitzgerald, on recognising the role of whistleblowers; the comments of the Taoiseach and the apology from the former Minister, Deputy Alan Shatter, are all important steps in recognising this. We cannot jump to the assumption that if somebody dares to speak out or raise a question, he or she is just a troublemaker. That is wrong.

With other members of the Committee of Public Accounts, I met Sergeant McCabe and he struck me as a credible individual. I am not qualified to adjudicate on the issues he brought to our attention, although Mr. Guerin has certainly found substance in what he had to say.

He was dismissed too quickly. We have a history of that in this State. It is a case of "There is nothing wrong here, nothing to see, move on," and we have to learn from that. I am not making a political point because it is something that all parties and Governments and broader society have failed at. I hope that when people look back at the Minister's record in many years to come, it will be seen as the record of a Minister who finally decided that the culture in An Garda Síochána had to change and that there needs to be a willingness to hear different views and to provide a forum and structure in which those views can be heard.

It is important to acknowledge that the Guerin report is very comprehensive, thorough and insightful, and was written and put together efficiently in a very short space of time. I acknowledge the work done by Mr. Guerin. It was never within the report's remit to make a determination, and Mr. Guerin recognises this. That is the purpose of the commission of inquiry, the establishment of which I very much welcome. However, there are lessons we can immediately learn from the report that we do not need commissions or further investigations to tell us about. Page 333 gives us an insight into the training, supervisory mechanisms and the support or lack thereof provided to members of An Garda Síochána, including new members. As we begin recruiting new gardaí, no new Garda should leave Templemore and be put in a station protecting this State and its people without the recommendations and conclusions on page 333 being taken on board. This idea of probationary gardaí being left without support structures, inadequate accommodation being provided, no experienced sergeants being available to provide supervision and a lack of stability, continuity and experience at district officer level are very basic and practical points that can be addressed. We do not need more commissions to address them. As the Minister recommences recruitment to An Garda Síochána, which is very welcome, this is something that really needs to be looked at.

The Department of Justice and Equality needs to be examined. While I acknowledge the work ethic of many people within that Department, it is fair to ask whether the Department in its current form, and its current relationship structures with An Garda Síochána, are fit for purpose in 21st-century Ireland. Do the structures work? Is the relationship too circular? When one reads the Guerin report, it seems that what happened on occasions in the Department was that when an allegation was made about the gardaí and sent to the Department, the Department sent it back to the gardaí and asked them about it and the gardaí wrote back. The relationship was circular. There was not enough time to stop, to think, to ask for an outside voice or to decide to carry out an external review. Was section 42, which related to the establishment of a special inquiry, used often enough? Could it have been used more often? Is that fit for purpose? Do we need to look at that piece of legislation? I very much welcome the Minister's planned establishment of an independent expert review of the Department, because we cannot look at this in a piecemeal way. We must look at all aspects of our justice system. That review needs to be speedy. It needs to be comprehensive, but it cannot be allowed to drag on either because there are crucial questions about management, the Ministers and Secretaries Act and how the Minister of the day interacts or does not interact with senior civil servants. I do not say this about any Minister or any personality, because this is bigger than that. This is about whether, when a Minister, regardless of his or her political hue, goes into a Department, the structures are adequate to ensure that he or she receives the advice that is required. Is the Ministers and Secretaries Act serving the Minister for Justice and Equality of the day adequately? We need to know that.

My next point is not meant as a criticism in any way, shape or form of any Member of the Oireachtas who brought information into the public domain on behalf of whistleblowers, because they did their duty in that regard. However, it should never have reached that point. We should never have had a situation in which a whistleblower felt he had to print records off the PULSE system, stick them in a black box and send them to the Committee of Public Accounts, or meet Deputies and provide them with names and details. This is not a criticism of the Deputies or the whistleblower. It is a criticism of the fact that we had to get to that point - that this member or those members of An Garda Síochána either felt they could not have confidence in the existing structures or felt that adequate structures did not exist. We must make sure that robust structures are in place. The Oireachtas has a role to play in respect of legislation, the gardaí have a role to play in respect of the detection and prosecution of crime with the DPP, the Department has a role to play, and the judiciary has a role to play. However, if something goes wrong and there is a problem and a dissenting voice, where can that voice go? The Guerin report and what we have seen in respect of penalty points and other matters show us that there is simply no adequate robust structure for that voice to go to.

I welcome some of the announcements in respect of GSOC. It is vital that GSOC has real teeth, that a serving Garda can go to it and have an outside view and that we can have confidence in GSOC as an ombudsman commission. It is really welcome that we will have an independent Garda authority, because it is badly needed. We need to take the politics out of policing. The proposed change to the Protected Disclosures Bill to include members of An Garda Síochána and protect them as whistleblowers is very welcome, but we must see all these things through and we must see them through in a way that allows the public to have confidence in our justice system.

We must also challenge an assumption we tend to arrive at in this country that if a problem occurs it is a localised one. Donegal was meant to be a localised policing problem. We could run the risk of saying that Bailieborough was a localised policing problem. We must adopt the approach that these problems are not localised but systemic, because if we do not do that we will end up constantly having a collection of localised problems. Donegal was meant to be localised and now we are talking about Cavan. Which place will we be talking about next? We must look more broadly than that and not fall into the trap of thinking that something was a one-off incident that just happened in this station or that station. It is bigger than that.

My colleague Deputy Buttimer also raised a cultural issue in respect of An Garda Síochána that I want to put on the record of this House, because it provides an insight into the rigidity that exists in the gardaí. Deputy Buttimer reminded us of an occasion when there was an LGBT parade in our capital city during which members of police forces around the world marched with pride in their uniform. Members of the Irish police force were not allowed to take part while in uniform because it is a disciplined force. We must get beyond this. That gives one an insight into this conservative attitude - an view that says that one is in the force and will do what one is told. These are citizens of our Republic who are equal, and if they want to wear their uniform and march in favour of equality and being proud of who they are, they should be allowed do that. It is a small point but it is yet another insight into the need to challenge the culture that can exist at the top level of An Garda Síochána.

We have a long way to go in tackling the justice challenges this country faces. We have Cooke report, the Fennelly commission and the independent expert review of the Department of Justice and Equality, which is now headed up by Deputy Fitzgerald. We obviously need and will have the independent commission of inquiry. There is a long way to go. It is crucial that this House continues collectively and in a non-partisan way to work towards restoring faith and trust in An Garda Síochána in the interests of all our citizens and the men and women in An Garda Síochána and the Department of Justice and Equality, so many of whom get up in the morning and serve this country with distinction on a daily basis.

The next speaker is Deputy Boyd Barrett, who is sharing time with Deputy Mattie McGrath.

The revelations and scandals surrounding allegations of Garda malpractice, corruption, cover-ups and wrongdoing are of the most serious nature. We have had in very quick succession quite shocking revelations about the extent of these practices within An Garda Síochána and allegations regarding the apparent complicity of the Department of Justice and Equality and Governments and Ministers for Justice of the day in this malpractice, the cover-up of malpractice or the failure to take these allegations of criminality, malpractice and dysfunction within An Garda Síochána seriously. The stakes could not be higher.

If citizens do not believe the administration of justice is carried out fairly and impartially or is applied to all citizens equally, why should any citizen respect the law? Why should any citizen feel he or she has a stake in society? There can be little doubt that the succession of scandals and the abysmal failure of the Department and the Government to deal with the allegations in a timely fashion and to be generally perceived as guilty of dragging their feet, failing to take seriously the allegations, downplaying them and demonising the people who made them has shredded the credibility of the justice system and the Garda in the eyes of huge number of our citizens in a way that can be only seriously damaging to people's faith in the justice system and to the coherence and fairness of our society and Government.

Following everything that has happened, including the resignation of the previous Minister and the assumption to office of the new Minister and the appointment of the temporary Garda Commissioner, Noirín O'Sullivan, we have had much talk and rhetoric and many promises about how everything will change and about the objective of widespread root and branch culture change in the force to ensure brave, heroic whistleblowers such as Sergeant Maurice McCabe and former garda, John Wilson, and the whistleblowers in the Chamber who brought the allegations to the notice of the Chamber and the public and who were denigrated in the most suspicious circumstances are heard. Information was passed from the Garda Commissioner to the Minister for Justice and Equality and used to tarnish the character of whistleblowers in this House. Mysteriously, another Member, Deputy Clare Daly, was arrested at the time she brought up these allegations.

This is serious stuff but we have had promises and rhetoric about change, yet ten minutes before I came to the House, I spoke on the telephone with Sergeant Maurice McCabe, the man who has been at the centre of these issues and who was the courageous individual without whose actions we would not be having this debate and we would not be hearing all the promises of change and reform in the Garda. Sergeant McCabe said that in the past month he has experienced 13 instances of harassment by colleagues such that he felt unable to go work last Monday because he is stressed, fearful and so on. Since all these allegations emerged, the person at the centre of them is afraid to go to work, is stressed and has become unwell because the harassment continues. He expressed shock, surprise and dismay on the telephone at the evidence given by the interim Commissioner, Noirín O'Sullivan, to the Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality this afternoon where she apparently claimed - I did not hear it - that senior Garda management is in regular, if not daily, contact with Mr. McCabe. He says that is absolutely not true, that he is receiving no support and that the only contact he has had with senior management was with an assistant Commissioner who briefly discussed with him access to the PULSE system. He has had no support and virtually no communication from senior management. What the hell is going on? We have had promises of change and reform of the culture but the person whose bravery and heroism has brought all this to public attention is still being harassed and is getting no support from senior management. Is it just all talk or are the Government parties serious about this stuff? I appeal to them to look into this.

This is not only about the bugging of GSOC, the bugging of telephone calls and the allegations by whistleblowers about malpractice in the Garda, as many other issues need to investigated. Other Members and I have many times raised the case of Cynthia Owen who was raped and abused at the age of 11 and made pregnant. Her baby was murdered but nobody has ever been arrested or prosecuted for those horrendous crimes. She has appealed for the establishment of a commission of a investigation to look into her case. She alleges senior gardaí were involved but successive Governments have failed to give her the commission of investigation she requires to look into this. I hope the Government will include that case in its commission of investigation.

The issues go beyond the Garda. I have previously mentioned the shocking case of the journalist, Gemma O'Doherty, who four weeks after she looked into an allegation that the Garda Commissioner had penalty points quashed was compulsorily dismissed from her job with Independent News & Media. Does all this extend into the media as well?

I refer to the 11 key deficiencies that pointed to disturbing system failures within the Garda force. The report raises fundamental issues about the Garda Síochána, how investigation of criminal cases was carried out and the responses to serious concerns which were raised about them. There are serious questions around the nature of Garda management, governance and oversight, basic policing procedures and the role of bodies such as GSOC and the Department of Justice and Equality.

While Mr. Guerin makes the point that he has not made any findings of fact or come to any determination in respect of the matters he examined, he 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 to hear the evidence of everyone concerned The public rightly expect to be able to rely on the policing service and the criminal justice system. No police force in the world can operate without the support of the public. People get that in the main in Ireland and we want to maintain the bond and closeness between the people and the force. They must be able to trust that crimes they report will be fully and properly investigated. It is also vital for members of An Garda Síochána that they work in a system in which highlighting and reporting failings is regarded as professional and praiseworthy rather than acts of betrayal.

The report also highlighted the following areas that need examination and which have been already brought to the Minister's attention but I will outline some of them. The operation of the Garda station bail system also required a close examination, he suggested. Mr. Guerin called for a broad look at whether station bail was being properly applied as an alternative to bringing an accused person before a court for the determination of bail by a judge. He highlighted the use of section 2A of the Bail Act 1997, which allows the court to take into account and, where necessary, receive evidence or legal submissions concerning the seriousness of the offence and the sentence likely to be imposed if the person is a convicted. If that happened, the murder that was carried out in Limerick by a Tipperary man might not have occurred. There are serious deficiencies in this regard and they need to be addressed.

The resourcing of the Garda is also an issue with morale at an all-time low. We have been raising this in the House for two years because of cuts upon cuts upon cuts to the force's budget. Some Garda stations are not fit for purpose and I do not know how the Government expects anyone to work in them. Some do not have broadband coverage and are subject to intermittent telephone coverage while others do not have light bulbs in the toilets. That is how bad it is. When I raised these issues with the former Minister for Justice and Equality, he laughed at me and poured scorn on my complaints. Gardaí did not have batteries for their flash lamps and his reply was to tell them to buy the batteries themselves. What a thing to say and what disrespect that shows to members of the Garda. They are at the coalface trying to doing their best. I salute the majority for the work they do with the exception of a few officers who have let down the side and betrayed the good name of the force.

I will attend a retirement function for Superintendent John Courtney in Clonmel tomorrow night. This wonderful officer is retiring with dignity after 40 years service. I attended a similar function some weeks ago for Superintendent Tom Duggan. They are great officers who have given wonderful service but they are all tainted as is the entire justice system. The sooner the better the Minister grapples with these issues and the sooner the better serious questions are asked about the Department of Justice and Equality. What is going on that it could take 15 days for a letter to be handed to a Minister? There is something rotten in the system, as there is in many of the systems in the State.

I refer also to the Revenue Commissioners, where whistleblowers are needed and they should be supported. Some matters should be checked with regard to how ordinary citizens are being treated, the bully-boy tactics used and the way the fear of God is put into them. The Minister of State, Deputy John Perry, as a business man, should know this. Broad questions must be asked.

Resourcing is an issue. There is talk of reopening the college in Templemore and recruitment has been promised and dangled on a string. I wish the Minister, Deputy Frances Fitzgerald, well and hope she will be woman enough to stand up to whatever situations arise. The last Minister did not have respect for An Garda Síochána. That is clear from the incident that occurred before he was appointed Minister, when he denied the facts of what had happened and used, mar dhea, the illness of asthma as a reason for failing to comply with a legal requirement, where a failure or an inability to do what one is asked to do by a garda is a crime. He was above this and that is when the rot set in. I believe the Garda Commissioner was compromised at that stage. I felt sorry for him, given how he had been treated, but I do not have a shred of sorrow for the last Minister who did not respect An Garda Síochána. He would not go to the conference he had been invited to attend and whinged when he was not invited to the other conferences. If any other Minister decided not to attend a conference or if a Catholic Minister was attending a Catholic ceremony and used this as an excuse for not attending, he or she would be banished from the earth by the media. However, the former Minister chose - he is entitled to his faith - to say he would not attend because he was going to honour his own faith. He was entitled to do this, but if a Catholic Minister or a Minister of another denomination did this, they would be run out of the country and destroyed by the media. As far as I am concerned, in the case of the former Minister, it is good riddance to bad rubbish. I do not wish him any bad luck-----

I must ask the Deputy to withdraw what he said about the former Minister, Deputy Alan Shatter.

I said if any other Minister-----

My job is to chair the debate fairly. It is wrong of the Deputy to name people in the Chamber.

I am talking about the former Minister.

We are here to discuss the report. I ask the Deputy to stick to its content.

That is what I am doing. I am just pointing to where the rot really set in. It was at the top, as we know. It was not due to the garda on the beat or in the squad car doing his or her job. There is rot at the top that must be sorted out and the issue must be depoliticised. I am simply pointing out that if other Ministers had taken those actions, they would not have got away with it. It is that simple.

The Guerin report points to many issues, but others must also be investigated. Promises were made by political parties and the Taoiseach that the Omagh bombing would be investigated. The families concerned have been ignored by the Taoiseach since he took office, as they were by the former Minister for Justice and Equality. The Taoiseach told me in the House that he was directing the former Minister to meet them, but it never happened, despite what had happened to them and their suffering. When one makes promises when one is in opposition, people expect one to live up to them. They expect one to support the Garda, but that support was not forthcoming, but I know it will be forthcoming from the Minister. I have that much respect for her.

Much soul searching must be done at the top of the Department and An Garda Síochána, not at the bottom. Everything seems to start at the bottom, with the foot soldiers, despite the foot-dragging in a letter taking 15 days to be delivered to the Minister. Whether he received it by e-mail or otherwise, we will never know, but it took 15 days for it to be delivered physically. That is not acceptable in a modern system. What if one rang the Garda and had to wait 15 days for gardaí to arrive? I realise people in some areas must wait a long time for gardaí to arrive, but that is because they do not have the patrol cars, equipment or wherewithal required. I met a garda when canvassing several months ago after the storm. He said he was better off at home because in the station he had no telephone, broadband or patrol car. What does this do to morale? It is soul destroying for a member of An Garda Síochána to have to say this.

There must be a root and branch review and I hope the commission of investigation will be able to get to the root of this issue. If not, a more serious examination of the entire system will be required. The system is badly broken. I met the former garda Mr. Wilson on the plinth a few minutes ago and he told me the same story that was related by Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett. If it is true, it is very disturbing. I will not say whether it is true or false, but it is disturbing to hear about such cases. As public representatives, we have a duty to raise them in the House, but I thought all of that was well behind us and that the people concerned would be listened to and respected.

I welcome the Minister, Deputy Frances Fitzgerald, to her new post and wish her well with her responsibilities. It is a big challenge.

This is a report to the Taoiseach entitled "Review of the action taken by An Garda Síochána pertaining to certain allegations made by Sergeant Maurice McCabe", by Seán Guerin, SC, of 6 May 2014. The first page of his conclusions, page 329, captures to an important degree the essence of the conclusions that follow. It states, at paragraph 20.1, under conclusions and recommendations, "In any organization whose members face the significant daily challenges and pressures that must be borne by those whose duty it is to ensure the security of the State and the safety of its citizens, a critical voice is in danger of being heard as a contrary voice." That could apply to the two political parties that form the Government. It is the duty of the leaders of these parties to ensure the security of the State and the safety of its citizens.

The report continues:

The paradigm of the whistle-blower is an unattractive one. The whistle-blower, like the referee from whom he gets his name, is seen as someone who is not on the team. The challenge of accommodating and learning from legitimate criticism is always going to be a difficult one, especially in a disciplined force.

An Garda Síochána is the protector of the peace. Its function is to ensure the security of the State and the safety of its citizens. It operates through a chain of command, orders and instructions; therefore, it is sometimes very hard to understand the philosophical necessity to have a critique of that chain of command. Blind and unquestioned obedience comes to mind and orders and instructions are pervasive. I will use that analogy to discuss the political parties and what the experience has been in this Dáil. There has been unquestioned and unchallenged obedience with the Whip system in certain debates and situations that merited justified criticism. We have the Economic Management Council, which is a new method of controlling the Cabinet. The Taoiseach, the Tánaiste, the Minister for Finance and the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform are dominant through their frequent meetings and policy making for the country and through their influence on the Cabinet, which is constitutionally supposed to be a democratic collective decision-making body. We have seen from certain legislative measures, the most recent of which was the proposal last year to abolish the Seanad-----

This is statements on the Guerin report. Will the Deputy please speak about the report?

We are talking about any organisation whose members face the significant daily challenges that must be borne by those whose duty it is to ensure the security of the State and the safety of its citizens.

The statements are on the Guerin report.

There is no organisation other than the Government that is more relevant to that statement, as a platform for the report.

I ask the Deputy to speak on the report.

I will proceed to another part of the conclusions made in the report. It states:

While it is beyond the scope of this review to make any determination of the complaints Sergeant McCabe has made, the documentation examined gives cause to share the concern expressed in them and, for the reasons outlined in this report, there is cause for concern as to the adequacy of the investigations that have taken place into those complaints and as to whether all appropriate steps have been taken.

I should also advert briefly at this point to an issue which has featured extensively in the documents I have examined but which is beyond the scope of my terms of reference. That is the experience that Sergeant McCabe has had within An Garda Síochána since making his complaints. I have seen extensive documentation, including the third volume of the three booklets furnished to the Minister for Justice and Equality by Sergeant McCabe's solicitors in September 2012, which gives cause for concern about the personal and professional consequences for Sergeant McCabe of his having made the complaints examined in this report and other similar complaints. It is not for me to express any view on those matters except to say that Sergeant McCabe's experience calls for examination.

I will use the analogy again of the experience of members of political parties, which are organisations similar to the organisation of An Garda Síochána in so far as they form part of Government. The experience of some Members as a result of being critical, not contrary, has been appalling. The Whip system the Government parties operate has been relentless and is similar to the relentless chain of command which has been unquestioned and used incorrectly to fail to deal fairly with justified criticisms within An Garda Síochána. I make these points to the Minister to bring to Cabinet for reflection. Nobody in the House should ever be under orders or instructions when there is a justified matter under debate or consideration - even in the context of voting - and subject to consequences which are contrary to the principles of democracy and which have deprived Members of positions on committees to which they were justifiably appointed. Those consequences should be examined by this Parliament, just as the consequences in the Guerin report should be examined.

At the outset, I formally express my good wishes to the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Fitzgerald, in what is a very challenging role. I have no doubt she is up to the task and hope it goes well for her. It is worth noting that there has been a dearth of Government backbenchers in this debate, which speaks volumes about the priorities of some. It is regrettable that they have not recognised the importance of the issue by contributing to the debate.

I welcome the Guerin report, which is a good one and a model that can be used in other investigations. It was produced in a timely fashion and is straightforward and lacking in jargon. It is to the point and deals with the issues at hand without attempting to gloss over any. It does not pull any punches and is matter-of-fact. I commend it on that basis. It includes critical findings on the manner in which the whistleblowers were treated and the failure of the system within the Garda itself and within the Department of Justice and Equality, as well as at a political level, to recognise what was regarded as a contrary voice. A critical voice within the Garda must be welcomed and viewed as an important aspect of the health of the organisation. The report refers to the strengths of Sergeant McCabe in particular and the validation of his commitment to the job by several of his colleagues. It makes recommendations on a number of procedural issues in the Garda and the Department of Justice and Equality with reference to the manner in which the latter failed to deal with genuine complaints. Very significant issues are thereby raised as to the functioning of the Department, which warrant urgent, serious and thorough investigation.

The critical thing about this whole saga is not that these things have happened. It is recognised across the world that in any police force there is potential for wrongdoing, misappropriation, mishandling of cases and misconduct. There is an onus on the political system to ensure that there are proper oversight procedures and structures in place to limit the potential for abuse. What is clearly required is an independent Garda authority which keeps the Garda force at arm's length from Government and ensures that it is accountable to the public and that proper procedures are followed. Unfortunately, the Government has resisted strongly the clear demand to do something about that. Last year the then Minister, Deputy Alan Shatter, said we could not afford to have an independent Garda authority. Clearly, we cannot afford not to have one. I welcome the fact that, very late in the day and under duress, the Government has agreed that there is a need for an independent Garda authority.

The critical thing is not the fact that these awful things happened within the Garda and the justice system, but the response of those in authority once they occurred. Public office and government are a test of judgment and character. Judgment comes into this for political leaders when there is a need to recognise that something wrong has happened or been done. Character is required to ensure that our political leaders have the strength to do what is right when they discover wrongdoing. They must do what is right regardless of the implications. Unfortunately, the Government has been found seriously wanting in both judgment and character.

There were serious problems with the manner in which the former Minister, Deputy Alan Shatter, dealt with this entire matter. There was his outrageous allegation against Deputy Wallace and his failure to tackle the disgraceful treatment of Deputy Daly. He undermined the whistleblowers from the very start and resisted any kind of inquiry or attention to those critical voices referred to in the Guerin report. He undermined and denigrated them. He sought to silence them and move on in the pretence that there was no problem. Deputy Shatter claimed the whistleblowers had refused to co-operate with the Garda inquiry, which he knew was absolutely not the case. He refused to disassociate himself from the "disgusting" remark of the former Garda Commissioner, Mr. Callinan. He alleged that GSOC was legally obliged to notify him of the bugging investigation and misquoted the law in that regard. He ignored all the warnings from the RSA, the Comptroller and Auditor General, the confidential recipient, etc.

Worse than that was the manner in which the Taoiseach dealt with this matter. All of those matters were sackable offences, yet the Taoiseach showed no concern about them. He resisted taking any action and stood by the former Minister to the very death and until the position was entirely untenable. What really concerns me is the utter failure of the Taoiseach and his colleagues in Cabinet to stand up and be counted on an issue that everyone else recognised for what it was. The Government refused to do what was right in this situation and has been greatly diminished and weakened as a result. There has been a great deal of consideration of the culture that has been created. The response of the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste and other Ministers has only copperfastened that unhealthy culture, which is about ignoring the elephant in the room when something is wrong.

Mr. Brian Purcell, who is currently a witness before the Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality, is in an impossible position. He is being asked - rightly but impossibly - to disclose a confidential conversation between himself and the Taoiseach which took place before he was dispatched to speak to the former Garda Commissioner.

It is entirely unacceptable that the Taoiseach should hide behind a commission of investigation and refuse to disclose what happened that night. He is playing for time and tried to do that until the elections were out of the way. Now, he is stretching it out as long as possible for one year, 18 months or maybe after the next general election. He is in a position to explain to the public what happened that night and he is seriously failing in his duties by refusing to do so and running away. He is a disgrace.

I repeat something I said last night in discussion during Private Members' business on a Bill to try to address some of the issues that have come up over the years and to address the need for change in the justice system. The Government has indicated it will move on some of the measures and hopefully this will be done fast. The issues have hung around for a number of years since the Garda Síochána Act 2005 was passed. The measures will address the future and we must address some of the cases highlighted to date. When dealing with the outworkings of the Morris tribunal, I remember arguing with Michael McDowell that what occurred in Donegal could have occurred in many other divisional areas. We needed to address policing on the island as a whole, but particularly in the State, in the same fashion as we addressed policing in the Six Counties. My belief, which has been borne out by some of the revelations that have emerged in the Chamber and outside it, is that there was malpractice, skulduggery and criminal intent by a small number of gardaí within a force that has been besmirched because of the actions of a few. This happened throughout the country and we did not have the mechanism to deal with it. If the mechanisms were in place, they were found sadly wanting.

The Garda complaints board was scrapped because it could not deliver on its functions. When it was scrapped, the Garda Inspectorate was set up to ensure the mechanisms and practices in the Garda Síochána met a modern standard. The inspectorate has been in place for a number of years but did not spot some of the bad practices exposed by whistleblowers. GSOC has been hampered by lack of resources and proper funding and because it has to rely on members of the force it is supposed to investigate. The vast majority of gardaí I have met over the years are diligent, hard-working and genuine people who uphold the law, fight crime and prevent crime. Most of them have expressed to me a frustration at not being able to do their jobs properly, whether this arises from equipment, bureaucracy or time that could be better spent doing the job rather than form filling.

There is always a danger in any large organisation. The Garda Síochána is not the only large organisation in the country that has fallen short of its purpose and ideals. When such an organisation feels under attack, and in this case the attack was from within, the organisation closes ranks, buries its head in the sand and denies all around. This might be fine as an initial reaction but, given that this is the police force, the body tasked with upholding the law and setting an example for society as a whole, it is not good enough. Whatever about the initial reaction, as soon as the full scale of what was exposed and the truthfulness of what was highlighted emerged, it should have merited greater investigation and charges being brought against those who were doing wrong. There should have been penalties if the PULSE system was being abused or used for the wrong reasons. There is collegiality among colleagues and people are often fearful of turning on someone who is a colleague. In the case of someone involved in criminality, there is a duty on people in this House and in every organisation. It is a culture that, to date, we have not managed to get across properly in Ireland. Hopefully, this will set an example and set the bar very high for everyone in society so there is no more of the nod and wink. It does not matter at what level the crime occurs. This change might filter down.

It is a pity the institution set up specifically to help members of the Garda Síochána to expose wrongdoing, the confidential recipient, also fell short. One of the scary parts is that an institution set up quite recently could not get to grips with this in any shape or form. GSOC also could not deal with it and what was most worrying was the attitude of the Garda Commissioner when faced with the charges made by Garda Maurice McCabe. He seems to have dismissed the charges or put his head in the sand. That must be ended. There is quite a lot in the report and it is good that the justice committee is dealing with it. I spent a long time on the justice committee or attending its meetings. We dealt with a range of things and no matter was sacred. Hopefully, the Secretary General can shed some light on what happened between him, the Taoiseach and the former Garda Commissioner. The acting Commissioner said there was a change in attitude and that GSOC should have investigators so that gardaí are not investigating themselves. That was a change and there is a layer of other issues that must be addressed by gardaí or by GSOC.

It is not just this group of whistleblowers that has suffered the consequences. In the past, a whistleblower in the Defence Forces exposed a range of abuse and harassment of women in the Defence Forces. Eventually, it lead to the Doyle report, which led to major changes in the Defence Forces and a change in attitude. As far as I know, there has been a change in culture in the Defence Forces. However, in the meantime, the man had lost his job or could not sustain being in the Defence Forces. A garda who attempted to expose wrongdoing in the force had to leave the force early and his health failed. A few others were in similar circumstances and it is right for the State to examine some mechanism to compensate him or to ensure the loss of earnings in the period when he was forced out is recognised by the State.

A thank-you in that form is not always good enough. He is happy that he and Sergeant McCabe have been vindicated and that Sergeant McCabe has access to the PULSE system again and can carry out his duties as a garda. That should have happened years ago, but at least it has now happened. There is an acknowledgment of what happened, but sometimes an extra step needs to be taken. I hope that at the end of all of this those who had the courage to highlight wrongdoing will no longer be penalised and will be able to hold their heads high. I met some of them last night.

There is another aspect to this issue which I have raised with a number of other Ministers for justice and it has some relevance in the context of the Guerin report. Part of the culture within An Garda Síochána of late seems to be that it is okay to leak information to crime journalists. In Dublin and other cities information on ongoing cases and characters of interest has been used by some in the tabloid media to build up these characters. This has been to the detriment of society. Some characters in my area and that of the Minister now think they are invincible because the Sunday World, the Daily Mail or one of the newspapers of this type have built them up as gang bosses or gang lords. Some of the information in the media has come from within An Garda Síochána. Any information supplied in that manner on ongoing cases is a threat to An Garda Síochána because it can undermine investigations and threaten the cases being investigated.

I have not got to the end of the rumours circulated regarding the fact that some new newspapers had a number of gardaí on their payroll or were paying them a stipend to get this salacious information, but this practice must be stopped. If a garda is found to be leaking information, regardless of whether it is valuable, to journalists, it must be stopped. Using the Garda Press Office is the way to provide information. Far too often, erroneous material is published in the newspapers and this damages the families involved, whether victims or relatives of those under investigation. This can cause major problems. The only possible source of much of the information provided is the PULSE system. It is most important for An Garda Síochána that the PULSE system is got right and that the data within it are protected. We must be very sure that as An Garda Síochána gets to grips with the changes that will be made, this system is secure. As citizens, we must know it is secure and that information is used for the purposes for which it was gathered - to prevent and solve crime, rather than to line the pockets of so-called crime journalists.

I take the opportunity to congratulate the whistleblowers. I also encourage others who have information to provide it. I hope the recommendations made in the report will not lead to a flood of information, but perhaps we need such a flood of information to deal with the exposure of the issues involved once and for all. We could then draw a line in the sand and would be able to say An Garda Síochána was as good as was possible and that everything it did was of the highest standard and done to the utmost.

On the issue of resources, even in these stringent times, An Garda Síochána should have the equipment necessary to fulfil its role. It should not take a garda in one station 15 minutes to take fingerprints, while in another it only takes two, all because one station has a computer system, while the other is in the Sherlock Holmes tradition and uses ink, a roller and a piece of glass. It is madness that in this day and age An Garda Síochána is hampered by outdated equipment when more modern equipment would allow gardaí to use their time in a better fashion.

I welcome the opportunity to speak about the Guerin report. It is important that significant steps are taken as a consequence of the report in terms of reforms in the oversight of An Garda Síochána, its management structures and a fundamental review of the force. This review might, perhaps, be similar to the 1970 Conroy review or the review of the nursing commission over a decade ago which led to a sea change for the better in nursing, a change which had to be backed up by resources. The absence of resources is a critical issue for An Garda Síochána.

An Garda Síochána is essential and the core foundation of our democracy. In the emerging state of the 1920s we had the depoliticisation of An Garda Síochána. This took some time - until Eoin Ó Dufaigh moved on - but we will not go through that matter. Nonetheless, a civilian police force has been the bedrock of our democracy through the decades.

Across the world all police forces are not free from problems. However, we should never be of the view that we cannot air or articulate issues for fear of being considered against the Garda. It is important to restore and have public trust in An Garda Síochána, key to which is the belief that any failing will be brought to the fore and dealt with comprehensively. This is essential to maintain faith and trust in the Garda. We must encourage people with evidence of wrongdoing to come forward. If the past 20 years have shown us anything, they have shown there are no institutions beyond criticism. This House has learned lessons also in terms of how it operates and it is important that we set up an independent inquiry. We would appreciate having some input into its terms of reference.

We must also be clear in regard to the determination of the Government and the former Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Alan Shatter, to undermine the whistleblowers when they raised issues of consequence. On the ten cases dealt with in the Guerin report, the dossier was sent to the confidential recipient and the Department of Justice and Equality via this route. It was also sent to the Department of the Taoiseach. The cases are shocking. When I met Sergeant Maurice McCabe, I found him to be a credible witness; others who have met him have confirmed this. The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Leo Varadkar, found the same, but it seems he was the only Minister who stood up to the former Minister for Justice and Equality on these issues, particularly the matter of penalty points, which is the reason it ended up with the Road Safety Authority.

On the issue of whistleblowers, what struck me about the transcript of the conversation between the confidential recipient and Sergeant Maurice McCabe becoming public was the absolute silence in this House and the media on its content. I can only hazard a guess as to what would have happened if it had been a Fianna Fáil Minister for justice who was the subject of a transcript of a conversation which reported unacceptable comments made by him and suggested that if he thought a whistleblower was causing him trouble, he would go after him.

We never got a satisfactory explanation for all of that. It is necessary to keep looking at the transcript. Much of the material in the dossier is referred to in that transcript, particularly the treatment of Jerry McGrath and the various offences. An entire chapter in the report deals with that. That led to a murder, and the central proposition is that that murder could have been prevented. That is a very shocking thing. Obviously the commission of investigation to be established will need to go through that and make a call on it. None the less, given the very manner in which that was raised and the details involved in the dossier, one would have thought the reaction would be a desire to get to the bottom of it. However, all along the line the attitude seems to have been not to believe it because it had been properly investigated, and it was pushed to one side. All the other items in that dossier are equally shocking.

While I do not have the transcript with me, I can paraphrase it. The confidential recipient said that the Minister of the day read all of that. The confidential recipient actually had exhibits of each case and the only thing he redacted was the name of Sergeant Maurice McCabe; he left everything else in there. He said that he knew the Minister studied everything. I do not understand why it did not move on from there. That was also Mr. Guerin's central conclusion when he stated that the Minister had opportunities in terms of the legislative provisions in section 42 of the Garda Síochána Act 2005, as amended, and also the function provided for in regulation 82 of the Garda Síochána (Confidential Reporting of Corruption or Malpractice) Regulations 2007. The Minister had the power to establish a special inquiry pursuant to those provisions. In essence, Mr. Guerin is saying that he did not follow through on those provisions, even though he had the capacity to do so.

To be fair, we have not heard the former Minister's side. From his letter of resignation I get the sense that he might have issues. It seems to me that the Taoiseach put the gun to the former Minister's head and said he had to go.

It is interesting to consider the chronology and sequencing of this. The confidential recipient was sacked and there was no debate in the House; no questions were answered in the House on it. The issues in that transcript were very serious and yet for some reason we did not get any accountability as to what had happened and why he was sacked. We then move forward and find that the former Garda Commissioner was to all intents and purposes removed when the Taoiseach sent the Secretary General of the Department of Justice and Equality to the Commissioner's to say, more or less, that he would not survive the following day's Cabinet meeting. The Taoiseach will not be up-front and say that, so he uses all sorts of odd language, saying that he just wanted to let him know how anxious he was about things, despite the fact that the Commissioner had sent letters about those specific issues - the phone-recording situation - to the then Minister two weeks earlier. So we then had the removal of the Commissioner, again without any transparent explanation or proper accountability to the House. The Secretary General of the Department of Justice and Equality is saying he cannot talk to the Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality because of the commission of investigation. The Taoiseach is saying he cannot make a statement to the House about it; he simply will not do it.

Now we have had the removal of the former Minister for Justice and Equality because of this report and, probably, the Taoiseach's reaction to the report. The former Minister said he did not want to cause any further embarrassment to the Government in the run-up to the elections. None of it is good enough. Much of this could have been headed off if there had been far greater transparency in the beginning.

Sergeant Maurice McCabe certainly felt he was got at in the end and that people went after him. However justified, he actually feels that those remarks in the transcript that the former Minister would go after Sergeant McCabe if he thought Sergeant McCabe was causing him trouble are true. The man feels that people went after him and, certainly, anything he was saying was regarded as unwelcome and was basically suppressed. I handed the dossier to the Taoiseach and he responded. He took control of it from the Department of Justice and Equality and appointed Mr. Guerin to do this scoping work and review, and he has published his conclusions.

The fundamental failure of the Government to date is that despite all the language, rhetoric and spin about wanting to be the Government of the democratic revolution, nurturing a culture that facilitates whistleblowers and so on, the opposite actually happened in practice. Whistleblowers now feel worse off because of the Government's behaviour on a series of issues, regardless of what any piece of legislation might do for them.

There have been various provisions in legislation for whistleblowing in recent years on a sectional basis. In other words, if the Department of Health was introducing legislation pertaining to nursing, a whistleblowing provision would always be inserted. A comprehensive Bill is being introduced, but much of that is only rhetoric and spin if it is not matched by action and cultural change. The behaviour and actions of the Government have done more damage to the possibility of people coming forward than any previous Government in my living memory.

I know how important whistleblowing is in the context of health, for example. Probably one of the greatest acts was that of the brave nurses in the Neary scandal at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, in which they came forward and told it as it was. They saw things that were radically wrong, with women being butchered. That is how important it is. People might think individuals are oddballs and we should not take heed of them. We need to have proper channels and mechanisms to facilitate people coming forward and also facilitate those against whom allegations are being made in rebutting them if needs be and in making their perspectives known. That is also very important.

We are supportive of the idea of a policing authority but we would like to see some decent research on it so that we end up with something that is fit for purpose. In this House and elsewhere we have a tendency to go herd-like after the next fanciful idea as if it is the panacea for everything, but it is not the panacea for everything. We have a policing authority in Northern Ireland, the Northern Ireland Policing Board. The Patten report was excellent in developing structures of policing in the context of a very conflict-riven society. There are people on policing boards in the North now who, if they do not like who gets arrested, will organise a protest outside the police station. Let us look at a wider sample of different structures in Europe and across the globe to establish what best practice is.

We should also look at the management structures to see if they are fit for purpose in the modern era. We need to look at resources for the Garda. We need to reaffirm our faith and belief in the vast majority of the members of An Garda Síochána who do excellent work every day. We all meet gardaí who are working extremely hard on behalf of all of us in much more difficult circumstances than they did previously, given the challenges and strains of modern society and the consequences of the economic collapse.

We need a policing commission - a similar type of commission - that would look not just at what I might term the negative aspects of recent performances, but also at what a properly and effectively resourced Garda Síochána would look like in 2014 and 2015. The Minister for Finance might have issues with that because of expenditure implications. However, if we are to be fair and honest, we must do that also in terms of the resources available to the Garda, the deployment of the resources and how effective they are against the challenges of society in the 21st century. I believe there is a need for that kind of approach, which would encompass recruitment, education, training, specialist education and continuing professional development. I have met gardaí who get no encouragement or funding to pursue courses and programmes in postgraduate areas or wherever. I often think of what they are up against in the courtrooms. For example, they need to argue their way through developments in the area of forensics and so on. Rewarding people who will go the extra mile to improve themselves through education should be part and parcel of any review.

I was not present for the Minister's initial contribution. I would appreciate it if there could be consultation in respect of the terms of reference of and the timeline relating to the commission of investigation that is to be established. I understand the Minister has been in contact with the acting Garda Commissioner regarding Sergeant McCabe and his access to the PULSE system. I am of the view that Sergeant McCabe should be treated and facilitated in the same way as any other member of An Garda Síochána from now on.

I thank the members of the Technical Group for sharing some of their speaking time. I must apologise for the fact that I have a cold and I am hoarse as a result.

Too much celebrating.

No. I take this opportunity to wish the Minister well in her role. As I informed the Taoiseach upon hearing of her appointment, the Minister will be a great improvement because she will at least say hello to people when she meets them. That is a great start for any Minister.

In the context of the Guerin report, it is unfortunate that we find ourselves at this pass. Just to prove how wrong matters had gone, I wish to relate a story. On numerous occasions in the past I tried to raise with the Minister's predecessor a very serious matter of concern that was brought to my attention and that had been handled in the wrong way by An Garda Síochána. On each occasion, the then Minister did everything possible to either avoid addressing the issue or - to put it bluntly - cover it up. It is a matter of coincidence that the current Minister, Deputy Fitzgerald, has replied to a parliamentary question I tabled on the same issue, which relates to a particular incident. I seek to treat every person with respect. In that context, I appreciate the fact that the Minister has indicated that she has sought a comprehensive report from the Garda authorities with regard to the matter in question and that she intends to review it. I absolutely trust that she will do so. The security personnel involved in the incident to which I refer were attacked and seriously assaulted by 14 people during a riot. The events in question were captured on CCTV and the footage shows one individual being hit 80 times. The previous Minister for Justice and Equality was of the view that there was nothing wrong with this and that it was fine to allow the matter to be swept under the carpet. That is the type of thing which happened prior to Deputy Fitzgerald's appointment and of which we had become sick and tired. I hope we can look forward to better during her term of office.

Morale within An Garda Síochána is currently at an all-time low. That should not be the case, because 99.9% of members of the force - regardless of whether they are ordinary rank and file officers, sergeants, superintendents or whatever - are respectable individuals who do their jobs to the best of their ability each day. Those to whom I refer take pride in their work, believe in what they are doing and deserve our full support. Unfortunately, however, the resources of An Garda Síochána - the current Government has the worst record in this regard - are being attacked and cut so much that it is no wonder morale is so low. Previously, gardaí worked in stations which were almost falling down. In the past 15 years, however, many of these stations were refurbished at enormous expense. That was a great investment in essential items of infrastructure that were important to our communities. However, the previous Minister - working in cahoots with the former Garda Commissioner - closed many of these stations in rural areas. At that time, I stated on the record of the Dáil that it would cost more to keep the stations in question closed than would have been the case if they had remained open.

The then Minister performed so many U-turns that he met himself coming in the opposite direction. He twisted his story on each occasion on which he was questioned as to why he wanted to close these stations. In the first instance he stated that he was doing so to save money. When he was proven wrong in this regard, he stated that it was nothing to do with money but that it related to better policing. When he was tackled on the question of how it would lead to better policing, particularly as gardaí would be removed from the areas in which they were supposed to operate, he informed us that special vans similar to mobile police barracks would travel throughout the country and that people could meet officers in the back of these vehicles in order to discuss matters with them. The vans in question never materialised. They formed part of another bluff. We were then informed that gardaí would meet people in post offices and community centres, but this proved to be yet another bluff. This is the type of treatment that was meted out to politicians, the general public and members of An Garda Síochána.

Those to whom I refer were blackguarded by the Minister's predecessor, who will go down in history. When praising the former Minister, the Taoiseach stated that he would go down in history as one of the most reforming Ministers of Justice and Equality of all time. He will go down in history all right, but it will not be for the reforms he introduced; rather, it will be for the hurt he inflicted on those rural communities in which some fine Garda stations have been closed. In all likelihood, those stations will never be reopened. The Department is trying to offload these stations by seeking to convince people that it is doing them a favour by allowing them to be used for community activities. One one hand, Garda stations are being closed, while on the other, communities are being informed that they can use them for whatever purpose as long as they pay for their upkeep. The latter is because those in government do not want to be shamed in the Dáil as a result of being obliged to account for the amount of money it is costing to ensure that the stations in question remain closed compared to what it would have cost to keep them open.

There are other explanations as to why morale within An Garda Síochána is so low. The former Minister also thought it was a good idea to pursue those who hold licensed firearms. He decided to take away the licences of gun enthusiasts who had spent a great deal of money on their firearms. Those to whom I refer keep their guns properly and comply with all relevant health and safety regulations. However, the previous Minister informed them that they would no longer be able to keep high-powered rifles. People in this country engage in shooting as a sport, and rifle and gun clubs would have been obliged to close down as a result of the former Minister's insane actions. He did nothing about illegal firearms. Where is the logic in that? Deputy Shatter did not refer to illegal firearms but instead sought to pursue respectable people who hold licensed weapons. I plead with the current Minister, Deputy Fitzgerald, not to go down the same road. Those who hold licensed firearms are responsible individuals. Representatives from a number of gun clubs and other organisations gave a presentation in Buswells Hotel a couple of weeks ago. These are individuals who are steeped in their sport, whether it involves shooting, hunting or target shooting. Indeed, this sport is an industry, but the previous Minister, for some reason known only to him, decided to pursue those within it. I hope the current Minister will be more understanding than her predecessor.

I take this opportunity to wish the acting Garda Commissioner, Noirín O'Sullivan, well in her role. I met her earlier today and I have no doubt that she is extremely competent. Like the Minister, all she needs to do is consider what happened in the past and the fact that there was an unhealthy relationship between the former Commissioner and the previous Minister for Justice and Equality. We are all aware of the position to which that led us.

Everyone has his or her own story to tell. With regard to the confidential recipient, I questioned the former Garda Commissioner and the Minister's predecessor when they came before the Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality. Late one night I received a telephone call from a person who was friendly with me, who said, "You are after making a sore bed for yourself because I believe they are now going to go after you."

They did go after me and all I can say about the outcome - I will not go into the personal side of it - is that they tried a lot on me. Anyway, the one good thing about it is that I am still here while the former Minister for Justice and Equality is gone, as is the Commissioner, and I am not sorry. They know what they tried to do to me.

Reference was made to the Secretary General of the Department contacting the Commissioner in the way that he did. We have often heard of the visit from the Grim Reaper. No one would look forward to the Secretary General calling to his home late at night because it means something rather bad or ominous is going to happen.

All we can say is that we are where we are now. I am not a person to keep looking behind me; I can only look forward. We look forward to the fact that the current Minister is unlikely to come to this role in the way the previous Minister did, so full of tackling challenges that he wanted to tear asunder the Four Courts and the Judiciary. He wanted to attack. He had more enemies than any other person I have ever known in my life. He was simply on a solo run. He wanted to attack, change and, as he termed it, reform. Where did it get him? What did he achieve in his time? Little of any substance, only the harm he did, especially the harm to rank and file members of An Garda Síochána.

Often, he was questioned in the House. I remember Deputy Mattie McGrath tackling him one day in the House about batteries for flashlamps, because the Department had cut the allowance to the Garda for such simple items. That was a disgrace. How can we expect the Garda force to operate unless it is adequately financed and resourced for the equipment it needs?

Another thing that happened under his watch had serious consequences. He laughed at the matter when it was raised in the House by me. I am referring to the removal of Uzi submachine guns from the force. That should never have happened. Again, it was a stupid idea by a person who simply could not get it. The guns were available and they were bought and paid for. Gardaí were trained in their use. He thought he could penny-pinch or save something by removing them from gardaí. Senior members of An Garda Síochána said the measure put lives at risk because it showed a weakness in the force and they were dealing with highly organised and well-resourced criminal gangs with endless firepower at their disposal. What was our Minister's answer at the time? It was to take the guns from our gardaí and leave them with nothing. Even in the darkest days of the 1970s and 1980s when money was scarce and things were bad, the Garda had Uzi submachine guns. Detectives had a machine gun in the car. At least it was a little safety measure and something of a deterrent to certain criminal and rogue elements.

These are things the Minister should consider in making her mark, if she wants to be a properly reforming Minister, a Minister who understands and who listens. Unfortunately, for the past three years we have had a person who not only would not listen but who simply would not consider listening to suggestions, whether it was from his own backbenchers, whom he detested, Opposition Members, whom he detested, members of the public, whom he detested, or members of An Garda Síochána, whom he detested. He simply would not listen to anyone. There is no way the Minister could be like that, and I would never suggest that she would be. We hope that from now on An Garda Síochána can look forward to being adequately resourced. We hope that whistleblowers who wish to come forward with a complaint or a concern can do so. We hope that we will not have a Commissioner who will think such people are disgusting and who will not look down his nose at people who wish to come out and say something. We hope that when people have an issue or a concern they are treated with the respect they deserve.

People have fallen on their swords in recent months. Even the most kind-hearted person would find it difficult to feel sorry for them because of their behaviour in the past, some detail of which I have cited. The best thing I can say is that the wheel is always going around. I remember one evening during a particular debate the former Minister, Deputy Shatter, was sneering at me. I remember thinking to myself that the wheel is always going around and God is good at the end of the day. I can say now that the wheel has gone around, I was proved right and God is good.

I welcome the opportunity to comment on the Guerin report. This is first opportunity I have had to congratulate the Minister, Deputy Frances Fitzgerald, on her appointment to the Department of Justice and Equality. It is one of the significant Cabinet positions and she comes to it at a difficult time. I wish her the best and in so doing, unlike the previous speaker, I pay tribute to the former Minister, Deputy Shatter. He did the State some service in his time as Minister. Ultimately, he was guilty of a political misjudgment and has paid a price for it. It would be easy to overlook many of the positive things that he achieved in the headlong rush to judgment, as demonstrated by the previous speaker.

I concur with Deputy Micheál Martin, the leader of Fianna Fáil, on the significance of having public confidence in the Garda force. In an open debate about the Garda Síochána, including its strengths and weaknesses, its failings and shortcomings and its standing in the community, there is a distinct danger that we might lose sight of the overwhelming majority of the members of the force who go to work on a daily basis to do a difficult job and do it very well. The actions of a few are in danger of being allowed to undermine the endeavour and commitment of the overwhelming majority of members of the force.

I would like to believe I am reasonably well grounded in the community and I wish to acknowledge the commitment that the overwhelming majority of members of the force bring to their job in the community, as well as the professionalism that they bring to it on a daily basis. Furthermore, I wish to acknowledge the risks they take. Unfortunately, we have seen only recently some members of the force paying the ultimate price.

Some things arise in the political sphere. There is a lot of brouhaha at the moment about what was said to the Secretary General of the Department of Justice and Equality by the Taoiseach. If the Taoiseach asked the Secretary General to convey to the former Commissioner that he thought neither he nor the Cabinet had confidence in the Commissioner continuing in his role, then, personally speaking, it is fine by me because I believe the Commissioner's race was run. That is my personal view. Anyway, as with all of these things, time will tell. I am not as excited as others about what exactly went on in that conversation. It is acquiring a political life of its own, but I do not believe it is an issue that exercises the public too much.

I wish to comment on the appointment of a new Garda Commissioner. It will be a singularly significant event in terms of how morale is restored in the force. I can understand why an organisation wishes to see one of its own appointed to the position. I realise there is an independent process of appointment. However, it is important that the views of Members are heard by those charged with responsibility for making the appointment. From what I have seen of the current acting Commissioner, Noirín O'Sullivan, she seems to be an extraordinary capable and committed member of the force and she is doing an excellent job.

However, it is my personal view that it is time to move outside the force to appoint someone with external experience. In many respects, we are discussing a cultural change within the force. Whether the old boys' culture of having attended Templemore together, back-scratching and looking after one another is real or imaginary, the only way the public's perception of the Garda will improve is if an external appointment is made. The Minister will not comment on this point now, but it is imperative that an external appointment be made.

There is a headlong rush to welcome the idea of a new independent police authority. On balance, this is probably the right approach, but it was always useful for the House to have an opportunity to hold the Minister for Justice and Equality to account for issues as diverse as some of those raised by Deputy Healy-Rae - for example, firearms licensing and rural Garda stations. As with the establishment of the HSE, when we amalgamated the health boards, there is a danger that the real process of accountability might be lost. We must be very careful to ensure that in whatever new structures are envisaged for the administration of the Garda, there is effective accountability. Some other organisations that have been established do not have effective accountability. This is a point of which we should be conscious.

The Guerin report recommends the investigation of alleged Garda malpractice. I want to put on the record of the House something that has distressed me as a public representative for some time. It was brought to my attention a while ago. There must be a filtering system for these investigations to determine whether the concerns involved are real or imagined, but the case I am about to raise needs to be examined. I urge the Minister to take it on board. The perception is that whistleblowers are good and anyone who is against them is bad. I am not judge and jury on that issue and I acknowledge others' comments on how the aforementioned Sergeant McCabe and former Garda Wilson have done the State some service, but the question of whether whistleblowers are good while those who express reservations are against the public interest or lack commitment to accountability is not so black and white. What I want to place on the record relates to the tragic events in Scariff, County Clare, in 1994, when Imelda Riney, her young son Liam Riney, and Fr. Joe Walsh were murdered. As Deputies will be aware, those murders were carried out by the late Brendan O'Donnell. At the time in Scariff, Garda Sergeant Ciaran Sheehan was a serving member of the force. He joined it in 1982, graduating with the Garda Commissioner's Medal. He served in various locations, including Finglas, Fermoy and Harcourt Square. He was promoted to sergeant in 1990, transferred to Swanlinbar in County Cavan and, in 1992, was transferred to Scariff Garda station in County Clare. In all of that period up to his appointment to Scariff, he had no disciplinary issues. He was suspended from service in March 1996 and was finally dismissed in 2008. Since his dismissal he has received no Garda pension, but that is not the issue that I wish to raise. He had a long family tradition of involvement in the Garda. His father was a member in Cork, as were other family members, including a brother who is currently serving. I have met Ciaran Sheehan. I do not wish to cause distress to the families of any of the people involved in those tragic events in Scariff, but I wish to raise allegations that have been put to me that I cannot substantiate but that need to be investigated. Brendan O'Donnell, who was convicted, as I understand it, of those killings-----

The Deputy stated that he would, but I ask him to exercise great care when raising issues relating to citizens outside the House who do not have a chance to enjoy privilege as we do.

I appreciate that and do not wish to name anyone whose permission to do so I have not received regarding the allegations I am about to make. I will address the bones of the issue and try to trespass lightly, or not at all, on the rights of third parties. The Acting Chairman might keep in contact with me about it, but I appreciate his guidance.

As I understand it, the Garda's attention had been brought to a series of events prior to those murders that Garda Sergeant Ciaran Sheehan had discussed with his superiors and in respect of which he wanted action taken. Subsequently, Mr. O'Donnell went to the UK, where he was incarcerated. There was a question of whether he should have been brought home to face charges in Ireland. It was not pursued, and when he was released from incarceration in the UK he returned to Scariff in County Clare. Subsequently, those tragic murders took place and he was convicted of them.

The offences that Garda Sergeant Ciaran Sheehan wanted investigated related to threats involving firearms. As Deputies will recall, firearms were used in those tragic murders. The offences were not pursued. As I understand it, this was at the direction of the superiors of Garda Sergeant Sheehan, who has brought this matter to my attention. Garda Sergeant Ciaran Sheehan was subsequently summonsed by the Director of Public Prosecutions, DPP, in respect of that trial but was directed by his Garda superiors not to attend it.

There are significant issues at play here. After Garda Sergeant Sheehan became quite vocal on these issues, allegations were made by a third party against him. A complaint was made that he attempted to put pressure on a complainant to withdraw a statement. This case is being contested by Garda Sergeant Ciaran Sheehan. Two witnesses have stated that he never attempted to interfere with the person who made the statement, but those are the grounds on which he was dismissed from the Garda - namely, that he had attempted to get someone who had made a complaint against him to withdraw it. This all relates to the original issue of the murders in Scariff and what precipitative actions could have been taken. These are obviously raw and emotional issues for the families involved. In the context of alleged Garda malpractice and in the public interest, I would like to think this matter, which has had a significant impact on the local community - particularly the bereaved families and Garda Sergeant Ciaran Sheehan - should be investigated. There is ample record within the Garda of this matter. Given its significance, I trust that it can be considered for further inquiry and investigation.

It is critical that we put in place a robust system to ensure that gardaí are supported in the pursuit of their duty to the public of proper policing. Mechanisms must be in place allowing them to feed in their concerns about maladministration of justice within the force, as well as proper complaints procedures, etc. There should not be a fear that if someone dares to be different or steps outside the cosy consensus, he or she will be ostracised. It is a question of having a process.

Regrettably, it appears there is not a sufficiently robust process to allow members feel confident in making a complaint against a colleague or superior officer. That is the challenge we face. It is important that the public have confidence in gardaí and I have no doubt that is an issue that will exercise the minds of the Minister and her colleagues in the Department of Justice and Equality in the coming weeks and months as we attempt to move on and support gardaí in carrying out their duties and ensure that those who are not doing their job well are identified and dealt with. The overwhelming majority of gardaí are committed public servants doing a good job, but they have been failed at leadership level and in terms of being provided with opportunities to make complaints and have them dealt with seriously. That is the challenge.

I join other Members in congratulating the Minister on her appointment to a serious position within Cabinet and wishing her every success in that post. I have no doubt she will bring to bear the steady hand required to bring about effective change in the administration of justice, which has been mentioned in this report and others, maintain a stronger morale within the force and, ultimately, protect citizens by virtue of the role she and the gardaí have in that regard.

The report we are debating vindicates Sergeant McCabe and establishes that he was correct in highlighting the failures regarding the administration of justice in the Bailieborough district. There is no doubt that the findings of this report are an embarrassment for the Fine Gael-Labour Party Government, not least by virtue of the length of time in which these allegations were made, the way they were dealt with, and the way the previous Minister, unfortunately, dismissed and belittled the whistleblowers on regular occasions. Unfortunately, it is clear in hindsight that the Taoiseach also aided and abetted the dismissive attitude and belittling manner in which suggestions of wrongdoing brought to the attention of others by Sergeant McCabe were treated.

The failure of management in the Department to respond in an effective manner to the concerns raised by Sergeant McCabe is a clear indication that there must be, and I expect there will be, a dramatic cultural shift and the necessary changes that will lead to more openness and accountability. I welcome the comments made recently by the interim Garda Commissioner, who has made positive soundings in that regard. I expect that the Minister, in conjunction with the force and the Department, will bring about a root and branch reform, initially in the Department of Justice and Equality, and in the Garda Síochána. It was disconcerting to hear a colleague of the Minister say recently that the Department of Justice and Equality is not fit for purpose. I do not expect the Minister to make a rash judgment of that nature by virtue of the fact she has been in office for only a number of weeks, but she can give some indication of her initial impressions of the Department, its fitness for purpose and practice, and whether it meets the demands and realities of today rather than the demands and realities that existed in a bygone era.

I know from having spoken to members and representatives within the Garda Síochána that there is an opportunity under the Haddington Road agreement to shine a light on the force, so to speak, examine work practices and the way they carry out their duties in a regular fashion, and how that can be improved upon. Will the Minister inform the House at the earliest opportunity if any opportunity has been taken from that mechanism that exists within the Haddington Road agreement to allow Garda representatives engage in a potential root and branch overhaul of their day to day work practices vis-à-vis the improvements they believe are necessary and the costs associated with them, and pay and conditions also? That is something they have mentioned to me in the past as offering an opportunity for that to take place.

The report highlights the inactivity and the defiance of the previous Minister for Justice and Equality in the manner in which this issue was dealt with. I have no doubt that further compounded the concerns that had been raised. Mr. Guerin has recommended a full commission of investigation, and we know he asked that this be set up as soon as possible. I heard the Taoiseach say this morning that the various recommendations, references and obligations of the commission of investigation had been agreed by Government. In the meantime, has the Minister committed to changes that can be made parallel to that investigation? I am sure many changes could be made. The Minister is in the position almost a month and I am sure she has ideas as to how the changes within the administrative systems should start and the proposals she will make in that regard. While the commission of investigation is going on the Minister will need to show her willingness to work with both the Department and the gardaí to ensure those changes do nothing to affect the poor morale that exists in the force. If she is capable of doing that, there is every potential for confidence in the justice system to at least begin to be reinstated.

It would not be fair to conclude my contribution to this debate without making reference to what was asked of the Taoiseach during Leaders' Questions this morning and what will be asked of the Secretary General of the Department in committee later today. A Minister for justice has lost his job over this saga and a Commissioner resigned prematurely. I and many others do not believe it was the Commissioner's intention to resign or retire in such a fashion. For the Minister, others and Members to help reinstate the morale necessary for any future improvements or changes to be effective, it is only fair and appropriate that all the facts that can be provided by Members of this House, for example, are laid out on the table.

The Taoiseach said this morning that following receipt of the information he was full of anxiety and felt it necessary for the Secretary General to go to the home of the former Garda Commissioner and tell him of his anxiety. I do not wish to belittle the scenario that prevailed during the days in question. However, it is amazing that the former Garda Commissioner did not instruct the Secretary General to go back to the Taoiseach and tell him that whatever his anxieties, they were not caused by his inaction or inability to inform his superiors of the matters concerned, because he had informed the Minister's predecessor, Deputy Shatter, of the issues some three weeks earlier. To my mind, it was inappropriate for the Taoiseach to pre-empt the opinion and decision of Cabinet members prior to their being made aware of what their colleague had been made aware of three weeks previously. It would appear, from a political perspective, to anybody who took an interest or tried to understand it that the Taoiseach, who is also the head of a political party, was seeking to protect his Minister. If the protection of that Minister meant the early retirement of a Garda Commissioner, so be it, it appears.

In the meantime, the Taoiseach has refused to explain his actions to this House or to adequately reflect his anxieties at the time. This morning it became increasingly clear that what he did was purely to protect the Minister, Deputy Shatter. The contents of the Guerin report then left the Taoiseach with no option but to ask the Minister, Deputy Shatter, to resign. As such, the Taoiseach's plan fell flat on its face. In the meantime, it appears the good name of the former Garda Commissioner is sullied. I do not believe that is fair or appropriate. It does not augur well for the efforts being made to reinvigorate the Garda Síochána and to bring about change in the administration of justice within the Department of Justice and Equality and the force that a question mark remains over the decision of a Garda Commissioner to retire early.

The Garda Commissioner is the head of the force. That the former head of the force was used in a political manner by the Taoiseach, in the absence of the full knowledge of all members of Government, politicises this matter way beyond what we would expect. If this is incorrect - which I doubt - the only way this will be taken out of the ether is if the Taoiseach answers the question asked of him on television recently and again this morning and if the Secretary General is allowed by his superiors to answer honestly the question of what exactly required him to visit the home of the former Garda Commissioner. I have heard that he said it was unusual for him to visit and speak to the former Garda Commissioner at his home. It is even more unusual that the instruction relating to the visit cannot be disclosed. While that continues to be the case, it will be difficult for the current Minister, Deputy Fitzgerald, to bring about the type of root and branch reform that is necessary. It is wrong that the head of a force that serves us daily was used in such a way in relation to information he had given to the Minister's predecessor three weeks previously.

I hope the Minister will do her best to seek clarification on those matters. Only then can the recommendations contained in the Guerin report be implemented in a manner in which we can all have full confidence and that will be successful. If there is any seed of doubt - and there is - in relation to the issue I have just mentioned, the work of the commission of investigation and the prospect of its being meaningful in terms of the type of reform that is required will, by virtue of the inability or refusal of the Taoiseach and the Secretary General to answer the questions asked in the interests of all those we represent, be debilitated. The public are, I think, entitled to know why the former head of the force, of whom we expect so much, was used in an effort to save the political skin of a colleague in Government, without other members of that Government having been informed of the circumstances.

I thank all Deputies who contributed to the debate on the report by Mr. Seán Guerin into the actions taken in relation to the allegations made by Sergeant McCabe. It has been a wide-ranging debate. Many Deputies have commented on the challenges of the current situation. I accept that there are many. Issues of morale have been raised. I agree it is important that morale within An Garda Síochána is strong and that this is a challenge at this time.

Some of the narrative we have heard this evening and some of the assumptions being made about events are premature. Issues raised in the Guerin report are being referred to the commission of investigation, where everybody will have his or her say and all sides will be heard. That is what a commission of investigation is about. It is about hearing all sides and everybody having his or her say. As stated by Mr. Guerin, his report does not contain findings of fact. However, it is an important report which has led to the Government decision to establish a commission of investigation. All of the issues raised in the Guerin report, of which there are many, have been referred to that commission, including 11 of the 12 cases examined by Mr. Guerin, issues with regard to the management of the Garda Síochána and others. Everything that Mr. Guerin has suggested should be referred to a commission will be referred to it. As I said, the purpose of the commission of investigation that is being established is to hear all sides of the story.

The Government takes seriously what is in the Guerin report. For this reason, a range of actions and initiatives will follow. I take Deputy Cowen's point that we do not have to wait for the end result of the commission of investigation in order to implement change. That is true. The interim Garda Commissioner, the Department and I have work to do as we await the outcome of the commission of investigation. There is no question of that. I have taken note of the range of individual cases mentioned by a number of Deputies this evening. It is extremely important that the details of the cases raised by Deputies Creed and Healy-Rae are forwarded to the Department and the other relevant authorities who can deal with the allegations.

There are appropriate organisations and there are examination procedures in place. I will be examining and discussing mechanisms to ensure some of the cases raised in the House can be investigated further in a variety of ways.

I thank everyone who has contributed. I have listened carefully to what Members have had to say. I will take on board, in so far as I can, the various suggestions made by Deputies as I proceed with the programme of criminal justice reform which is now under way.

Everyone who read the report by Mr. Guerin would agree that reform is necessary and urgent. While the report does not make findings of fact, it concludes there are wide-ranging concerns in regard to the way in which serious allegations made by Sergeant McCabe were investigated.

There has been considerable discussion tonight about whistleblowers. Clearly, Mr. Guerin makes very insightful comments on whistleblowers, and his pertinent points were quoted in detail by number of Deputies tonight. I have said before that, as a society, we are developing in a much more coherent way our responses to whistleblowers. Organisations have a lot to learn about the best management of whistleblowers and putting procedures in place not only for the whistleblower but also for the personnel against whom allegations are made by the whistleblower. It is important that we have such procedures in place. Every organisation, including An Garda Síochána, has work to do on that.

We have established the commission of inquiry. In that regard, we have not yet received the Cooke report. It clearly will have implications for the terms of reference of the inquiry because its authors are examining some linked issues. We need to address the underlying legal, organisational and structural issues that have contributed to these difficulties. There are cultural issues to be addressed. As everybody knows, challenging and changing what are broadly termed cultural practices is not easy. However, if we take action in this area, it will begin to change the culture. What is really important in cultural change is the motivation to change. Deputies have asked tonight whether the Government has the motivation and political will to move forward with these reforms. There is absolutely no doubt about it. The actions that have been taken to date demonstrate strong political will in terms of changing. It is essential that we change because public confidence has to be restored. It is critical for our democracy that there be a strong Garda Síochána; there is no question about that. A strong Department of Justice and Equality is a cornerstone of democracy and it is critical. Every Deputy in this House acknowledges that.

The wider programme of reform is a top priority for the Government. It is being overseen for the first time by a Cabinet committee on reform. This is both new and good. There have been Cabinet committees to deal with many issues over the years but there has not been, or has not been for some time, a Cabinet committee on justice reform chaired by the Taoiseach. We have had a number of meetings already to make progress with the reform agenda. It is important to have the committee.

One of the reforms already under way is the establishment of an independent Garda authority. Deputies Martin and Creed made the extremely good point that we need to consider very carefully the issues concerning the establishment of an independent Garda authority. There is no question but that this requires care. It involves a major change and there are serious issues to be addressed in regard to the move, including security issues and membership of the board.

Baroness Nuala O’Loan said today that it is extremely important that the new independent Garda authority not be politicised. There are issues in this regard that we need to be very vigilant about. An initiative I will be taking is the holding of a round-table discussion on the establishment of the new authority. There will be a very wide group of stakeholders. I intend to hold the discussion in the coming weeks. It will present an important opportunity to hear about the challenges inherent in establishing a new, independent Garda authority.

The authority will represent one of the most significant developments in the oversight and governance of the Garda Síochána since its foundation. It is extremely important that we get it right, but it is not simple. It has been achieved in other countries. A variety of models have been used and the justice committee has been discussing them but we must get it right for our particular circumstances, especially in regard to security issues. We need to consider the authority's powers, functions, membership, relationship with the Government and lines of accountability. This is urgent because we want to have the authority in place by the end of the year.

I intend to advertise the appointment of the Garda Commissioner in July and to ensure that the independent Garda authority will have a role in that appointment in whatever way is feasible. This role will depend on the timing because we do not want to unduly delay that important appointment.

Another important issue raised by a number of Deputies concerns the right mechanisms through which Garda whistleblowers and members of the public can make complaints if they need to. It partly involves strengthening the powers and remit of GSOC, which is critical. The Cooke report is due shortly and it may inform the legislation. The justice committee is engaged in hearings as we speak and will be preparing a report. That will be very helpful in arriving at conclusions on how precisely we should be strengthening GSOC. I will obviously consider this when finalising the legislative proposals.

I have indicated to the House already some of the changes that are necessary for GSOC. I will not go into great detail on them tonight. I spoke about them last evening in respect of the Private Member's business. They include, for example, the inclusion of the Garda Commissioner within the remit of GSOC, as mentioned by Mr. Guerin. That would be important. It is desirable that GSOC be able to initiate reviews of Garda practices without having to get the permission of the Minister.

There are certain questions that arise that might well have been factors in some of the cases that were examined in the Guerin report. What are the thresholds for the referral of cases to GSOC? Many people have said that all complaints should be accepted by GSOC rather than having referrals back or out. It is interesting to note, when one examines cases referred to GSOC, including those examined by Mr. Guerin and those referred to taoisigh and the Department, that there was quite a mixed pattern of acceptance by the commission. This has an impact on whether people believe they have received justice and feel there has been a proper investigation. That is an important point. The issue of the threshold for the referral of cases to GSOC generally and by the Minister, and the extent to which complaints to GSOC are currently referred to the Garda Síochána for investigation, emerged in the Guerin report.

This matter certainly merits further consideration. I will be introducing legislation this term to deal with certain aspects of strengthening GSOC. We will not be able to do everything this term but we will begin the process with a Bill before the end of this term.

I have referred the Guerin report to the Garda Inspectorate. I met representatives of the inspectorate some time ago and had a very detailed discussion with them. The inspectorate has published at least nine reports on various issues concerning the Garda.

It is doing some major work at the moment in regard to crime investigation. I have asked the inspectorate to look at the operational procedural issues that arise from the Guerin report. That is something it can do immediately and it has accepted the referral I have made to it in that regard. I have asked it to report as soon as possible.

It is important that all the lessons of the report be learned. I believe the Garda Inspectorate, with its independent expertise, can play an important role in that. I noticed that one Deputy tonight expressed concern about that but I do not believe his concern is well founded. If one looks at the international experience of the three members of the Garda Inspectorate, and if one looks at the reports they are already doing and their independence, I believe that was the right decision and I expect that some important recommendations will come from them on some of those basic policing issues which emerged from the Guerin report.

I have also said that I am putting in place an external review of the administration and management of the Department of Justice and Equality, and I will be making an announcement on that very shortly. I believe it is important, given the central role of the Department of Justice and Equality, and given the concerns that have been expressed, that we look at best practice for the Department and ask some key people to look at management issues and performance and administrative issues. That process will shortly get under way.

The Bill which has been brought forward by the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform will also provide a robust and supportive environment for all whistleblowers in both the public and private sectors, which is in line with the very best international standards. That will effectively 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. That should mean that the situation faced by Sergeant McCabe will be faced by no other garda.

Of course, we all know that while we can have all of that in place, what actually matters is the practice and culture. The way to ensure that the practice and culture are in line with such structures is by constant monitoring and proper management, and gardaí themselves need to be committed to that.

I will have to ask the Minister to wrap up.

To conclude, I know that the series of allegations of Garda misconduct have been deeply unsettling for the public, who rightly look to the Garda Síochána for the delivery of a fair, effective and professional policing service, but also for the overwhelming majority of gardaí, who joined the force to serve the public to the best of their considerable ability. Those gardaí, as much as anyone else, want to see these matters resolved. They want to have a fair and effective system in place to deal with allegations and they want to get on with delivering to the public the service they deserve. That is my objective too. The programme of initiatives and reforms I have announced will, I believe, deliver that. It will not happen overnight but I believe we are putting the right structures and initiatives in place.