Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission: Motion

I move:

That Dáil Éireann, noting that the Government on 6th January, 2021, nominated Emily Logan and Hugh Hume for appointment by the President to be members of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission, recommends, pursuant to section 65(1)(b) of the Garda Síochána Act 2005, that Emily Logan and Hugh Hume be appointed by the President to be members of the Commission.

The appointment of members of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission, GSOC, is governed by the provisions of the Garda Síochána Act 2005, which requires the Government to satisfy itself that a person to be nominated for appointment has the appropriate experience, qualifications, training or expertise for appointment. The Act also provides that a member of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission is appointed by the President following their nomination by the Government and the passage of resolutions by both Houses of the Oireachtas recommending their appointment.

In this regard, at its meeting on 6 January 2021, the Government nominated Ms Emily Logan and Mr. Hugh Hume. I am pleased to recommend formally to the House that Members approve Ms Logan and Mr. Hume for appointment by the President to be members of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission.

The need for these appointments arises from the expiry of the terms of office in December 2020 of two members of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission, namely, Dr. Kieran FitzGerald and Mr. Patrick Sullivan. I would like to take this opportunity to express the Government's sincere appreciation of the contributions that both Dr. FitzGerald and Mr. Sullivan have made to the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission's important and complex work. I wish them both well in the future. I would also like to pay tribute to Ms Justice Mary Ellen Ring, the chairperson of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission, who continues to provide leadership and vision in that capacity.

The Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission has and will continue to play a critical role in the overall architecture of policing in the State. Its independence is the guarantee to the public that complaints against members of An Garda Síochána will be investigated without fear or favour. Its three key operational principles of inquiry, independence and impartiality are the hallmarks of a policing oversight organisation of which we can be justifiably proud and which are vital in an advanced democracy such as we are fortunate to inhabit.

At the Government's request, the Public Appointments Service conducted an independent and international competition to identify candidates suitable for appointment to the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission. Almost 100 applications were received by the closing date. Following a rigorous selection process, Ms Logan and Mr. Hume were each recommended by the Public Appointments Service for appointment.

Ms Emily Logan has been a leader in a number of important public sector fields. She was chief commissioner of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission for five years until 2019 and clearly demonstrated her ability to be both impartial and inclusive. Prior to that, Ms Logan served as Ireland's first Ombudsman for Children from 2003 to 2014. She now serves as adjunct professor of human rights practice at the Irish Centre for Human Rights in NUI Galway. Her ability to address difficult issues consistently and fairly, her experience in making complex issues easily understood by the public, as well as her deep-seated credibility, will be of benefit to the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission.

Mr. Hugh Hume has been a member of the Garda Inspectorate since 2017. Prior to that, he was a serving police officer in Northern Ireland, retiring from the PSNI at the level of detective chief superintendent and as head of the PSNI's intelligence and analysis service. Mr. Hume's extensive experience in law enforcement and investigation will be of practical use to the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission, as well as his well-developed strategic, analytical and risk awareness skills. He is adept at relationship building, which is an important facet of bringing about positive change.

Both Ms Logan and Mr. Hume are committed to serving the public to a high standard. As with all new appointments, Ms Logan and Mr. Hume will bring fresh energy and a new perspective to the organisation, all of which is desirable in an area of activity as complex and challenging as that of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission. The House will agree that it is vital that the public has deep confidence in An Garda Síochána and its system of oversight, of which the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission is a key component. The considerable skills and experience of Ms Logan and Mr. Hume will serve to enhance the public's existing confidence in the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission's role.

I am confident the House will agree that both Ms Logan and Mr. Hume have impressive track records and credentials. Subject to the agreement of both Houses, the Department will make the necessary arrangements for the President to appoint Ms Logan and Mr. Hume as soon as practicable.

The Government has agreed that they will be appointed to the ombudsman commission for a period of three years and six months, or such shorter term as may result from the enactment of legislation providing for the restructuring of the commission. I hope the House will agree that the appointment of Ms Logan and Mr. Hume is to be welcomed. On behalf of the Government, I am pleased to commend the motion to the House.

Gabhaim buíochas leis an gCeann Comhairle. Ba mhaith liom fáilte a chur roimh an rún seo agus ní bheimid ina choinne. I wish the new appointees well. As the Minister of State said, they have considerable skills and experience and I have no doubt that they will be an addition to the board.

The importance of the role of any Garda oversight body cannot be overstated, especially in light of recent events such as the death of George Nkencho in Clonee. It is important that public faith in An Garda Síochána is preserved and upheld. Accountability on the part of our police service is a cornerstone of this. The importance of the independence of GSOC cannot be overstated. It must be independent and it must be seen to be independent.

The programme for Government contains a welcome commitment in respect of the implementation of the recommendations contained in the report of the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland. That report identifies a number of issues with the current arrangements relating to accountability of An Garda Síochána. Recently, I spoke to a former employee of GSOC who identified problems very similar to those outlined in the report. I want to speak on a number of issues which continue to challenge the efficacy of GSOC and which hamper overall efforts to maintain a good reputation for An Garda Síochána. The report and the person to whom I spoke both raise concerns about a lack of resources, a duplication of roles and responsibility in GSOC and the Garda Inspectorate, the training of investigators - in that only a few investigators are actually accredited - and the powers of GSOC being insufficient to cover the necessary investigative work. All of this means that many investigations are outsourced back to An Garda Síochána through what is known as the gearán system. Of course, these members do their utmost but there will always be issues when they investigating their colleagues. Justice has to be done and it has to be seen to be done. I have heard about low morale among staff and I am told many have left. Even where cases are managed by GSOC, many investigators, former male and female officers with An Garda Síochána and police services abroad, will naturally see things from the perspective of a police officer. Many investigators are trained in Templemore, alongside the gardaí they will be investigating.

I note from some media reports that a new office of the ombudsman for police conduct will be established by legislation being drafted by the Department of Justice. I have tabled a parliamentary question asking about this process, which is mentioned in the report, and I look forward to seeing it. Any police oversight body must be independent of the State and the police force and should be answerable to the justice committee. We need a new model, appropriate training and critical care teams. The current model is borrowed from the UK, which is changing its system.

There is one recommendation in the commission's report that must be reflected in the forthcoming Bill, which is that the new body must be able to look into historical problems and complaints in An Garda Síochána, including retired investigating officers. The recent High Court declaration in favour of Joanne Hayes and her family, the woman at the centre of what was referred to, mistakenly I believe, as the Kerry babies case, was a stark reminder of the wrongs of the past. Joanne, her family and her lawyers have long maintained that the case should have been known as the "gardaí in Kerry case" or the "Kerry gardaí case". What people tend to forget is that the tribunal was established to discover how Joanne Hayes was charged with murder. An apology has been given by the State but an apology for what? What is the State apologising for? While the tribunal was allowed to be used as a forum for discussion of social mores in the 1980s, it never explained how four or five different members of the Hayes family, in different rooms of Tralee Garda station at around the same time, came up with practically the exact same statement, including in respect of things that were scientifically impossible. Some of the statements were preposterous and there is no other conclusion but that some of the statements were prepared by members of a police service that lacked accountability in the 1980s. The people in north Kerry supported the Hayes family and knew that the statements could only have been drafted by members of An Garda Síochána and that members of the family were coerced into signing them. This case had an enormous effect on trust in gardaí in Kerry. There was hardly a conviction in a contested jury trial for 15 years afterwards if there was an issue with Garda credibility. As I have said, some of the findings of the tribunal were preposterous and were seen as an attempt by the State to bury the truth, but the truth will out.

We cannot afford a repeat of cases like this, particularly in view of the consequences for the administration and trust in justice. The new body, the ombudsman for police conduct, is a step forward. It does not mention the name of An Garda Síochána. The recommendation that the word "independent" be included was not followed. If this is a portent that some investigations will continue to be outsourced it is not positive. The training of investigators in Templemore is not appropriate and cannot continue. Other issues that must be addressed in legislation are policy and resourcing. We have a chance now at this crossroads to have a system of police accountability that is the envy of the world and I hope the forthcoming Bill will be the start of building this system.

As a society, we give enormous powers over our very liberty to our police force, An Garda Síochána. A requirement of democratic society, therefore, is to have robust and effective oversight bodies to ensure these powers are always used proportionately and properly and as is expected by the Legislature.

I campaigned to have a Garda ombudsman established since my involvement in the noughties with events concerning policing in Donegal and issues relating to the McBrearty case. It was crystal clear to me from that point that we needed to have an independent Garda oversight body. I campaigned to have the Northern Ireland model, a single ombudsman, established. The response of the Government at the time was not to do that but to initially establish the Garda Inspectorate, which did not meet the requirements, and eventually the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission, comprising three members, was established. My honest opinion is that it has not worked as well as it should or could. The actual transparency of its working since the ombudsman commission was established has lacked what was desired by all of us in pressing that legislation. Obviously investigations take some time, and obviously they have to be done in a degree of secrecy because people's reputations are at stake, but there needs to be an ongoing explanation to people as to what is happening. The recent killing of George Nkencho will require not only a robust independent investigation but also an explanation, as matters unfold, so that it is not simply something that is under investigation and we hear nothing more for a protracted period.

I support, and I have no difficulty with, the two nominees to be added to the current Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission. The Minister of State has set out Emily Logan's credentials impeccably and Hugh Hume, a former PSNI officer, will be an important addition. Of course, they are being appointed to a body whose very existence is about to end, and the far more important issue for us now is to get the next iteration of an independent oversight body right. I ask the Minister to listen carefully to the views of many of us who have been involved in policing issues over a protracted period and to discuss it with us, and not bring us a finished product that we have very limited scope to alter. I echo Deputy Daly's view that this is rightly a matter for the justice committee. A lot of open discussion should happen in the pre-legislative stage before the recommendations of the commission on policing are transcribed into a Bill for us to examine.

We certainly need very careful analysis of how we are going to progress with the new iteration of a policing authority, the new iteration of a Garda oversight body, a Garda ombudsman and the other crucial recommendations that have flown from the commission report.

In supporting these two nominees, I am delighted they came through the Public Appointments Service, PAS, system, the establishment of which I championed in my own time in government to ensure that everybody appointed to State boards is vetted by an independent process. It is a very good thing that we are going to continuously get very good candidates by that process. While I have no difficulty supporting the two excellent candidates being put forward, the much more important issue, as I said, is what we do next to ensure there is absolute public confidence in the administration of justice and that we have an oversight body that is fit for purpose for policing in this State. That cuts both ways. Many members of the Garda are dissatisfied with the operation of GSOC and their input has to be taken into account in a balanced way, so we get a proper oversight body that the public have complete confidence in, the people we give powers to in the Garda have complete confidence in and we, as a Legislature, have complete confidence in.

I want to note that the two board members, Emily Logan and Hugh Hume, are very experienced people. Hugh Hume has a long track record in policing as a member of the Garda Inspectorate since 2017 and, prior to that, he was a long-term member of the PSNI at a very senior level. Emily Logan brings a huge level of experience from her background in human rights, having been the chief commissioner of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission. I wish them well in their work and note that this has come through the PAS system. I echo that this gives a degree of confidence in how the process works.

It is always worth remembering that policing occurs in a social and economic context. GSOC is an important part of the current regulatory framework within the criminal justice system. It is important and right that there should be a healthy tension between GSOC and the Garda but I think it is more than that, which is why changes need to be made so it is not more than a healthy tension and that both work effectively, whatever way it changes in the future.

I can recall the debate 16 years ago before GSOC was established. There was quite a lot of resistance, particularly within the force, and there was a lot of public criticism about guards investigating guards. We can see that, in those years, this was an important aspect but it can only be an important aspect if GSOC is allowed to function correctly and if there are the resources to do the work and the investigations in a timely way. That is important from the point of view of public confidence, and confidence within both organisations as well..

Policing by consent is very important. There are different policing models around the world but there is a high degree of confidence in the Garda by virtue of that culture. It is not that there have not been problems because, clearly, there have been, but that is a culture we need to reinforce.

Other work is carried out by GSOC, including in regard to misconduct by members of the Garda and there is also the question of acting in a timely manner. I echo what Deputy Howlin said in regard to the importance of communication so people do not feel they cannot have ongoing information, where they have a very direct involvement, and that includes gardaí themselves where they are subject to investigation. The most recent case with George Nkencho is a case in point, and the public and a particular community are very much looking at how that will be handled.

I was very pleased that GSOC signed up to the Brussels declaration in December last year as a member of the Network of European Integrity and Whistleblowing Authorities. We could not say we have excelled in that particular area, irrespective of which sector is involved, and a lot more work needs to happen. In regard to the Garda authorities specifically, it is important that has happened.

There are significant issues in regard to resourcing, whether in respect of investigations, training or otherwise, but certainly in respect of staffing. The delays in completing investigations undermine the role of the organisation and will do so into the future.

Given the changed role of policing in the context of Covid-19, we need to ensure the consensual nature of policing in Ireland is maintained at a time of great change. There have been areas where we can be complimentary of the Garda. However, GSOC has an important role in investigating any possible misconduct at a time when the role of policing in Ireland has been changed by the extraordinary circumstances we find ourselves in.

I wish the two new appointees well in their role into the future.

I call Deputy Boyd Barrett, who is sharing time with Deputy Barry.

I have no particular difficulty with the individual nominations, although I do point to the point made by many people about gardaí investigating gardaí. I would like to see more civilian oversight of gardaí to ensure we genuinely have independence in oversight of the Garda and that it is perceived to be independent.

Given the recognition and acknowledgement that we need a new model for oversight of the Garda that genuinely has that credibility, I believe the case of George Nkencho, referred to by a number of Deputies, indicates the need to have an Abbeylara-style, fully independent inquiry. Concerns have been expressed by the family solicitor about the failure to interview the family, even though they have important evidence regarding the shooting. There is a very concerning independent pathologist’s report about George Nkencho receiving two shots in the back of the six shots that killed him on the doorstep of his house, particularly when the family have important evidence to give in terms of what they saw and their belief that the shooting was unnecessary.

I also think there are quite striking similarities that need to be acknowledged between this and the Abbeylara case: two young men, both aged 27, with 20 years almost exactly between these two events, and both of whom suffered from mental illness. In both cases, there were attempts to demonise the individuals and downplay the impact of mental illness on the circumstances. Of course, we know that the Barr tribunal eventually found that, really, had things been handled better, the shooting of John Carthy might not have been necessary. It is important we have that kind of independent public investigation into the shooting of George Nkencho, not least because, of course, the far right have, in the most vile way, demonised the family on racist grounds. It is very important for that reason as well that it is seen to be a genuine, independent public inquiry.

Earlier this month, the Irish Council for Civil Liberties wrote to GSOC.

Its correspondence included the following words: "In today’s globalised world we cannot ignore the international resonances of a police shooting of a black man." Ireland is not immune to the phenomenon of the over-policing of minority communities. The Irish Council for Civil Liberties observed that "the pain and anger in the black community in Ireland has been palpable since the killing of George Nkencho." The words of the ICCL only underlines the sensitivity, local, national, international, of the investigation into this killing. An organisation which initiates sensitive investigations in minority communities should have strong representation built into its structures for those communities. I question GSOC's suitability to conduct such investigations given such lack of strong representation.

Eyewitness statements were taken from the Nkencho family members today, four full weeks after the shooting. No doubt there are particular reasons for this delay but minority community representation within the structures of GSOC would have been able to make it very clear very early that such delays only serve to increase suspicion and doubt over GSOC's bona fides within that community.

I wish to state my opposition to the nomination of Mr. Hugh Hume, not on the basis on any personal aspersion or the need to be impartial and dispassionate but rather on the need to be seen to be impartial and dispassionate. The point is not that the RUC in which he served was a discredited police force believed by many, including Mr. John Stalker, to operate a policy of shoot to kill and cover up, nor is it that Mr. Hume presided over specialised armed units within the PSNI. The key point is that Mr. Hume served directly under Commissioner Harris in the PSNI from 2014 to 2017. He should not be placed in a position where he has to preside over an organisation tasked with deciding whether to launch a criminal investigation into Commissioner Harris's officers in this or any other case.

I conclude by reiterating two points, first that the investigation into the George Nkencho killing should be conducted not by GSOC but by an independent public inquiry which includes representation from both the community and the family, and second, I register my opposition to the nomination of Mr. Hume to the GSOC position.

I am conscious that we are a bit behind time this afternoon so I will endeavour to make my comments as brief as possible. I very much welcome the appointment of two new commissioners to the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission. I do so for three reasons. One, as others have mentioned, it is very good that the competition was run exclusively through the Public Appointments Service, PAS. The competition was free, fair and fully transparent. The more State appointments that are pushed through this pathway the better the country will be in the long run. Second, as the Minister of State outlined, the two individuals recommended are both eminently qualified and suitable. One has a background in human rights and is a former children's ombudsman and the second has had a life-long career in front-line policing at the highest level. On an individual basis, they are very good nominees but third, and perhaps most important, we should look at these nominees as a pair rather than just as individuals. Populating a commission such as this is a very delicate balancing act and on this occasion the Public Appointments Service has got it just right. Having an individual with experience of front-line policing will ensure that members of An Garda Síochána will be very fairly assessed in the performance of their duties from a policing perspective, and there is another person with a background in human rights who will allow the public to have complete confidence in An Garda Síochána in the performance of its duties. The PAS got the mix just right from the perspective of gender and expertise which is a very good thing. I welcome both nominees to GSOC and will support both.

I wish the outgoing commissioners, Dr. Kieran Fitzgerald and Patrick O'Sullivan, the best. I thank them for their service in recent years and wish them well in their future careers.

I welcome the Minister of State's statement on the outlining of the process to nominate these two commissioners culminating with the President's nomination. Perhaps the Minister of State should look at how Ms Justice Mary Ellen Ring has been on her own for more than a month and that should vacancies arise in the future that it would not happen and that the recruitment process would start earlier.

I have no difficulty with this. I know one name more than another. I have already referred to Emily Logan this morning in her previous role on the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission and the very strong submission it made to the UN committee in relation to the gaps, so to speak, in Ireland's compliance with our obligations under the social, political and cultural rights on which my colleague, Deputy Pringle, had a Bill before the Dáil this morning.

I also think it is important to point out the background as after a while, one forgets. We are addicted to social media and constantly changing images but it is important to point it out. I am glad to see Deputy Howlin here as he played a very important role leading to the establishment of the Morris Tribunal in April 2002 and the report was finally published in October 2008. That was set up to investigate complaints concerning some gardaí in the Donegal division. By 2018 the cost of that was €68.8 million and rising. I think it is over €70 million now. I am inclined to say the biggest mistake - but I do not know if it was a mistake - was to look on Donegal in isolation, as one county, as though this could not possibly happen in any other county. That was the worst decision made at that time and at huge cost. We have oversight now. There is the Policing Authority, GSOC and the Garda Inspectorate, but it is important to remember how those were really dragged into birth after all that happened among certain segments of the Garda. The Smithwick Tribunal was established in 2005, reporting in 2013, involving the collusion of members of An Garda Síochána or other State employees into the fatal shootings of RUC Chief Superintendent Harry Breen and Superintendent Robert Buchanan and the cost of that is €20 million and rising. The ongoing Charleton Tribunal is investigating protected disclosures made under the Protected Disclosures Act, which has cost millions and is rising. My first introduction to the Dáil was the Higgins Commission. I read the whole report at the time. It was to investigate certain complaints of Garda malpractice in the Cavan Monaghan division. Gradually, costing all these millions, we realised that what was missing was independent oversight of the Garda. Many families have been absolutely destroyed. The gardaí who were honest, straight and hardworking must have been in despair at what was allowed.

We are here today to approve the nominations by the Government. I have no difficulty with them but we have to learn and always remember why we need oversight. I understand the Government will bring legislation before the House to have a separate oversight body which I look forward to. In the meantime, GSOC is under-resourced with Ms Justice Mary Ellen Ring forced to say so publicly. Different Governments have utterly failed to learn. They did in theory and they put an organisation in place but then they failed to resource it. Can the Minister of State tell the House if it is adequately resourced now? Are there staff vacancies? I hope the two new commissioners will take courage and lead, so that if it is not fit for purpose, they tell us as legislators what is needed and tell the Government the budget that is necessary so that we give meaning to words when we talk about an independent oversight body of An Garda Síochána.

I finish by paying tribute to the Garda during Covid. We have had a wonderful picture of what is possible from good community policing on the ground. Exactly what we need in any civilised society is gardaí on the ground, on the beat, who we can trust. However, it will take quite some time before that trust is built up in the structures of An Garda Síochána, not the ordinary gardaí on the ground.

I thank the Deputies for their contributions and their generous support for the Government's nominations to GSOC. I note one Deputy's objection to one of the nominations and the particular reasons for that. It is important to note that these appointments came through an independent PAS process.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the gardaí for their commitment to the community, especially during the Covid-19 crisis. They have provided a phenomenal account of themselves and their commitment to the community.

The appointment of the candidates before the House will ensure that the very important functions of GSOC will continue to be discharged to the highest possible standard. The Government is committed to ensuring that policy in Ireland is subject to the highest principles of governance and independent external oversight. I have every confidence that Mr. Hume and Ms Logan will, in conjunction with the chair, Ms Justice Mary Ellen Ring, deliver the essential leadership to the commission, both in fulfilling its oversight role and in preparing the future reform in Ireland.

Deputies will be aware that the new programme for Government, Our Shared Future, commits to the rapid implementation of the recommendations of the report of the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland, COFPI, and to the introduction of the policing and community safety Bill, which will redefine the functions of An Garda Síochána and provide a new governance and oversight framework.

Work is at an advanced stage in my Department on the development of the general scheme of the policing and community safety Bill and the Minister, Deputy McEntee, expects Government approval for the draft scheme very soon. This major legislative project will provide a framework for policing, community safety and security for the coming decades. It seeks to build on previous reforms in 2005, and more recently in 2015, but does so with the benefit of the extensive and intensive consultations, deliberations and recommendations of COFPI, a group of independent national and international experts in diverse fields.

While there have been many reports on aspects of the administration and operation of An Garda Síochána in the past, this was the first comprehensive, future focused inquiry encompassing all functions of An Garda Síochána and police oversight bodies, including GSOC. COFPI took a strategic and objective approach to its task and examined the area afresh. Its final recommendations centred on an overall message on the need for a coherent policing architecture to support effective accountability and, ultimately, a more effective policing service for all.

Reflecting the recommendations of COFPI, the new legislation will identify the prevention of harm to individuals, particularly those who are vulnerable or at risk, as a specific objective of An Garda Síochána. The rationale for this reflects the experience of our gardaí and police elsewhere where the majority of police time is spent on the non-crime related activity of harm prevention, providing services to the people with mental health and addiction conditions, homeless people, children, elderly and others at risk. In the reality of what police do every day, this also supports their broader policing objective of preventing crime and contributing to peace and public safety.

In tandem with this legislation we place an obligation on other public service bodies to co-operate with An Garda Síochána and others to support more effective inter-agency co-operation to make our communities safer. As I said, the legislation will also provide for a new governance and oversight framework to address a key COFPI finding that the current framework has insufficient clarity as to where responsibility lies between the Garda Commissioner, the oversight bodies and the Minister for Justice and has the effect of weakening accountability despite the best efforts of all involved.

Our proposal will seek to ensure strong and efficient internal governance of An Garda Síochána and effective external oversight structures. Specifically, with regard to GSOC, the new legislation will include, as recommended by COFPI, an expanded remit and reform process for the handling of complaints and the conduct of investigations to streamline them and ensure timely resolution by safeguarding due process for all concerned. In addition, as recommended by COFPI, the new legislation will include measures to enforce the independence of the commission and ensure it has the capacity to deliver its expanded remit.

I note the comments by a number of Deputies with regard to the importance of the role the justice committee will play in this and the importance of discussion on the pre-legislative stage to continue to ensure that there is proper oversight. As Deputy Howlin stated, it is critical that the public have absolute confidence in the oversight of An Garda Síochána and any new body that is put in place and that it retains that confidence. As Deputy Catherine Murphy referred to, policing by consent is vital and not only that that culture is retained but reinforced in any future body. We are committed to ensuring that.

With regard to the shooting of George Nkencho, I would like to extend my deepest sympathies to all those impacted by the tragic event in Hartstown and in particular to the Nkencho family. Any fatal shooting is deeply distressing. Such incidents are, thankfully, very rare in Ireland but all are fully and independently investigated. As is the case in every incident involving a member of An Garda Síochána that results in the death of a person, the shooting of Mr. Nkencho is being fully investigated by the independent GSOC, which is chaired by the High Court justice, Ms Mary Ellen Ring. At the same time, gardaí are investigating the incidents at Hartstown Shopping Centre and the events leading up to the shooting. There are well-established protocols in place between GSOC and the gardaí to allow these to run parallel with the separate investigations to take place. As these tragic events are the subject of two separate and independent investigations, it is not appropriate for me to make further comment as I do not wish to pre-empt the outcome of any investigation.

In advance of the introduction of this new legislation the important oversight work of the GSOC must continue. Budget 2021 increased the justice and equality Vote by €56.1 million or 13.4% on the comparative 2020 allocation, bringing the total gross allocation to €474 million. The 2021 allocation provides €11.27 million for the commission.

The Government has nominated two excellent candidates to lead GSOC and I commend the motion to the House.

That concludes the debate. We have noted Deputy Barry's dissension.

Question put and agreed to.