Recent Issues Relating to An Garda Síochána: Acting Garda Commissioner Dónall Ó Cualáin

The purpose of this part of today's meeting is to discuss a range of issues related to An Garda Síochána, including the falsification of Garda breath test data, errors in relation to summonses and fixed charge notices and Dr. Geoffrey Shannon's audit of child protection.

On behalf of the committee I welcome for the first time the new acting Commissioner, Mr. Dónall Ó Cualáin, who is joined by Dr. Gurchand Singh, head of the Garda Síochána analysis service; Mr. Michael Finn, assistant Garda commissioner, roads policing and major event management; Mr. John Twomey, deputy Garda commissioner, policing and security; Mr. Michael O’Sullivan, assistant Garda commissioner, security and intelligence; and Mr. John O’Driscoll, assistant Commissioner from the special crime operations unit. Seated behind them are Superintendent Marie Broderick, Office of the Garda Commissioner; Garda Kieran Downey of IT; and Inspector Joseph O’Flynn and Inspector Michael McNulty. They are joined in the public gallery by Mr. Andrew McLindon, director of communications. I ask everyone to switch off their phones please as there is interference.

The format of meeting is the acting Garda Commissioner will be invited to make an opening statement, and this will be followed by a questions and answers session. Before we begin I draw the attention of witnesses to the fact that by virtue of section 17(2)(l) of the Defamation Act 2009, witnesses are protected by absolute privilege in respect of their evidence to the committee. However, if they are directed by the committee to cease giving evidence on a particular matter and they continue to so do, they are entitled thereafter only to a qualified privilege in respect of their evidence. They are directed that only evidence connected with the subject matter of these proceedings is to be given and they are asked to respect the parliamentary practice to the effect that, where possible, they should not criticise or make charges against any person, persons or entity by name or in such a way as to make him, her or it identifiable.

Members are reminded of the long-standing parliamentary practice to the effect that they should not comment on, criticise or make charges against a person outside the House or an official either by name or in such a way as to make him or her identifiable.

I invite assistant acting Garda Commissioner, Mr. Dónall Ó Cualáin, to make his opening statement.

Mr. Dónall Ó Cualáin

Before I address the topics on which the committee asked me to focus, I would like to take this opportunity to reiterate An Garda Síochána’s commitment to working with all our oversight bodies, including the justice committee, in their roles in holding An Garda Síochána to account which should result in an improvement in the service we provide to the public. We fully recognise that we need to change. We need to change our culture. We need to provide our people with better training, resources and systems. We need to provide a better police service to the public. We have commenced a major programme of reforms to deliver those changes and they are currently being accelerated. In making those necessary changes, it is also vital that we continue to protect and support communities, and while we appreciate the scale of the problems we face, improvements have been made and we still enjoy the trust of the vast majority of the people.

Our public attitude survey shows that the number of victims of crime has fallen in the past year, victim satisfaction has improved, fear of crime is down, and satisfaction with the service we provide is up. In addition, recent activity against organised crime has resulted in many lives being saved, major arrests being made, and large quantities of drugs and firearms taken off our streets. These results are a tribute to the great work done by our people, Garda members, civilians and reserves, throughout the country every day.

I will now address the reports by Assistant Garda Commissioner Michael O’Sullivan into issues surrounding the fixed charge processing system, FCPS, and mandatory alcohol and intoxicant testing, MAT-MIT, checkpoints. These reports found major failings in how we handled both issues over a significant period. When the former Garda Commissioner was here with the committee in March, she apologised for those failures and I reiterate that apology. The reports identified unacceptable failures in our systems, processes, internal oversight, supervision, and management. As Assistant Garda Commissioner O’Sullivan wrote, this reflects poorly on the professionalism of the organisation.

We fully acknowledge the damage this has done to public confidence in An Garda Síochána. All of us in An Garda Síochána must now take responsibility to change our systems, practices, behaviours and culture so these issues cannot happen again and confidence is rebuilt. It is a collective issue and can only be fixed from the top down and the bottom up.

In relation to the FCPS and people being incorrectly penalised, we are examining all fixed charge penalty notices issued since 2006. We have completed 99% of that work. We have written to 11,924 persons who we identified as people whose cases must be appealed. An Garda Síochána is working with the Courts Service to ensure all wrongful convictions are appealed.

In July 2017, we brought 67 test appeal cases before the Dublin Circuit Court to be heard by the President of the Circuit Court. All of the cases were successfully appealed and the Court Service is in the process of updating the records of those concerned and returning fines paid. A further 3,800 are scheduled to be heard in Circuit Courts in December 2017. All the recommendations in Assistant Garda Commissioner O’Sullivan’s report in relation to the FCPS are being implemented either internally or through an existing interdepartmental working group.

On the issue of MAT-MIT checkpoints, a number of measures have been taken to address the deficiencies highlighted. A change to PULSE in August 2017 means that only essential data are now collected. The Medical Bureau of Road Safety has commenced a tender process for new Dräger devices which will improve recording and new and improved training methods are being developed. We have also adopted a new approach to roads policing, including the introduction of a roads policing bureau, which will assist in this area by strengthening governance.

In addition, checkpoint incidents identified in Assistant Garda Commissioner O’Sullivan’s report that were associated with implausible breath test data have been referred to each of the regional assistant commissioners for further examination. This process is being overseen by the assistant commissioner in charge of roads policing. We are also awaiting the report by Crowe Horwath for the Policing Authority and should it identify any additional issues, they will be addressed.

The decision to remove a child from their parents or guardians under section 12 of the Child Care Act is never taken lightly by An Garda Síochána. Following recommendations contained in the Ombudsman for Children’s report into the two incidents of the removal of Roma children from their families by An Garda Síochána, known as the Logan report, An Garda Síochána engaged the services of Professor Geoffrey Shannon to conduct an independent audit of the exercise by An Garda Síochána of section 12 of the Child Care Act 1991. Professor Shannon’s comprehensive and detailed report was published on 29 May 2017. All the findings were accepted by An Garda Síochána.

While Professor Shannon’s report highlights important issues in relation to training, PULSE data and inter-agency working that need to be addressed, most critically it did not find any abuse of section 12 by members of An Garda Síochána, nor did it find any evidence of racial profiling. As Professor Shannon wrote, “the overwhelming finding in this audit is that Garda members commit great efforts to treating children sensitively and compassionately when a child has been removed under Section 12”.

Since the report’s launch on 29 May 2017, we have begun to adopt the report’s recommendations. An implementation plan has been developed by An Garda Síochána to ensure that all the recommendations are progressed. An Garda Síochána will continue to work closely with Professor Shannon to ensure implementation of his recommendations and we have already liaised with him on several occasions on this issue. The newly established national child protection unit at the Garda national protective services bureau is leading out on progressing the recommendations. Professor Shannon has also accepted our invitation to assist and participate in future child protection training for Garda members. An Garda Síochána, in co-operation with Tusla, is in the process of developing a model of inter-agency working which will meet the standards expressed in the report.

I want to give the committee my commitment as acting Garda Commissioner to ensuring the protection and support of communities while introducing the necessary changes to An Garda Síochána. I and my management team look forward to engaging with the committee in a constructive and positive manner on these and other issues with the joint focus of improving the service An Garda Síochána provides every day that protects and supports communities throughout the country.

I thank the acting Garda Commissioner. I call Deputy Colm Brophy.

I thank the acting Garda Commissioner for coming before the committee. I want to echo what Mr. Ó Cualáin said in his opening remarks that it is important always to realise and remember that the members of An Garda Síochána are out every day, often putting themselves at risk, to enforce the law, and keep us safe as a community and society. In looking at what are major failings, and this committee will do so with the acting Garda Commissioner and his management team in some detail, it is important to keep in mind that it is the same gardaí who have failed us who are putting their lives at risk and have reversed the situation in some of the main areas of crime, particularly in tackling the gangland scourge of recent years.

The heart of why the acting Garda commissioner is before the committee, and why his predecessor was here, is that what happened is totally unacceptable. The falsification of data by any organisation is wrong; the falsification of data by the State's custodians of law and order is therefore doubly wrong. I appreciate the work done by the assistant Garda Commissioner in the investigation of this and some of the practices it has demonstrated, but I will focus on one particular aspect of this although not in a "gotcha" sense. I recognise the comments by the chairperson of the Policing Authority.

The Garda report and the acting Garda Commissioner's comments referred to the falsification of data being so obvious that there will be further investigation into the actions conducted at a divisional level, but this poses a direct problem. The members of An Garda Síochána, through their representatives, the Garda Representative Association, GRA, are effectively accusing the management of An Garda Síochána of having been responsible for causing this. Ironically, because they did not state this at the beginning, they are saying that much of this increased falsification came about because of a culture or pressure to raise the figures. How does Mr. Ó Cualáin propose to deal with a situation whereby management is trying to investigate the matter and then engage in disciplinary measures arising from that, where those who maybe disciplined believe that the ones disciplining them are the ones responsible?

What actions does Mr. Ó Cualáin propose to take if it does transpire to be the case - I want to be careful in how I phrase this - that, in the words of the Policing Authority's chairperson, there is an indication that, although it might not have been a direct instruction, there was an implied culture that this needed to be falsified by substantially more senior people with An Garda Síochána than the front-line gardaí taking out the tests?

I cannot see how this process of investigating and drilling down the line will work. I accept that rank and file gardaí participated in this. They had to, given that it happened across the country. However, I am sorry to say that the real failure was a management one, and not just of an individual manager in an area. It was a complete cultural and management failure to deliver a proper system. That is what needs to be changed. That is what Mr. Ó Cualáin, his team and the ongoing review of the Garda need to do. If the GRA's accusation is correct, how does Mr. Ó Cualáin propose to deal with the issue?

Mr. Dónall Ó Cualáin

I will start with the Deputy's last comment. We have already taken action in respect of the GRA's comments. We have asked Assistant Garda Commissioner O'Sullivan to seek any evidence, including names of people, so that we can establish an evidence trail, go to those people and get their versions of what is being put out there, that being, management was in some way putting pressure on front-line members.

The Deputy's opening comments were right - it is unacceptable. However, a distinction is to be drawn with the MAT checkpoints, which are in statute with the purpose of giving An Garda Síochána the means to play its part in reducing road deaths. I would be surprised if any manager in charge of a district or division did not ask and direct everyone under his or her control to engage fully with that process in terms of the enforcement of the Road Traffic Acts. That is the manager's duty.

Regarding the taking of breath samples where the falsification may have occurred, however, there is no evidence to suggest that anyone at management level asked people to falsify records. Of course managers would have put pressure on their people to ensure that they maintained acceptable levels of enforcement across our lifesaver offences, which include drunk-driving.

Assistant Garda Commissioner O'Sullivan has gone back out and addressed the issue raised by the GRA. If the committee wishes, he can speak in more detail about his findings in that regard and whether there was pressure from management to falsify records, which is a different contention from the one that managers were just doing their duty and ensuring that the laws of the land were being enforced by the people who had been given the job to do so.

We play a significant part in the enforcement aspect of the three Es, which include enforcement and education. We play a significant part in the education process as well. The final E is engineering, in which we also have a part, in that we meet local authorities on a regular basis to ensure that, where we see blackspots emerging, we can let them know about the number of accidents happening there. With all of that combined, there was a consistent reduction in the number of road deaths during the period covered by the report, that being, from 2006 onwards. Assistant Garda Commissioner Finn can give the committee the relevant details. It shows that all of the components together were having the right impact, namely, reducing the number of fatalities on our roads. As a backdrop to that, however, and where there is supporting evidence of wrongdoing by any member at any rank, I fully accept that people have to be held accountable.

I will follow up on Mr. Ó Cualáin's answer. There is a problem with it. He stated that management in the Garda, particularly at divisional level, was applying pressure to ensure that enforcement took place in the form of conducting the tests to deal with the scourge of drink-driving. One of two problems stems from that. Either management accepted reports from subordinates that were blatantly false and had such a poor management structure in place that it could not pick up on just how false those reports were, or it turned a blind eye to how false they were or everyone was in agreement. I acknowledge Mr. Ó Cualáin's point that the figures were decreasing, but it is not credible that a senior management that knew what it was doing within a proper management structure - I keep referring to it as "management" rather than "Garda officers" or whatever - could believe that this level of activity was taking place when there could not have been enough hours in the day, cars on the road at certain places or drivers to stop.

It took months for this situation to come out, and then the Garda investigated and reverted to us. Members of the Oireachtas and members of the public are being asked to believe one of two things. Either management was so inept that it could not work within its own structures to figure out what was happening or gardaí actively colluded together to do it. Either scenario is an awful outcome. It is difficult to believe that rank and file gardaí continued doing this for so long and it was not picked up on without there being some type of a nod-and-a-wink culture or one that turned a blind eye. Is Mr. Ó Cualáin saying that did not happen?

Mr. Dónall Ó Cualáin

I will ask Assistant Garda Commissioner O'Sullivan to go into the detail, but management would have been focused on the number of MAT checkpoints being held, not on the level of breathalysing at a particular checkpoint. If the Deputy does not mind, I will ask the assistant commissioner to outline what he found in that regard during his examination of the matter.

Mr. Michael O'Sullivan

The report must be read in its entirety because a multiplicity of factors impacted on what occurred. I agree that there was a poor management structure. There is no doubt that it played a critical part. I will focus on management structures for a moment. There were divisions that did not have chief superintendents during the period due to the cutbacks. There were divisions that did not have divisional traffic inspectors. There were regions that did not have regional traffic superintendents. The traffic bureau had no dedicated assistant commissioner from 2008 to 2017. It had seven chief superintendents who stepped in and out alongside their various other functions. There was no superintendent in charge of operations at the Garda national traffic bureau, GNTB, from 2008 to 2017. Many of the issues in question were highlighted in previous reports by the inspectorate, including in 2008, but those reports were not implemented because of the period of austerity.

Management was one factor in this situation. Education was another. There was no training or continuing professional development, CPD, from 2008 onwards in the areas covered by these two reports.

As to the suggestion that there was no education or awareness, there was an awareness that MAT checkpoints were a critical point of the lifesaver strategy.

There was no awareness that the recording of breath tests was a measurable outcome. We found that, across the ranks and associations and all the way up to the top, there was no awareness of the breath test tab on PULSE incidents, where breath tests were recorded. Consequently, there was no supervision of the data, no measurement and no attention paid to them across the divisions. It was not any part of any performance management, promotion or career advancement process. It simply sat there until the issue arose. I agree that this was poor management but that is the situation in which the organisation found itself at that particular time.

I was fairly happy with the comments until this point but I have a real problem now. I always find that when organisations make mistakes, the mistake is made in a self-serving way. I hope An Garda Síochána does not go down this route. I am sorry but the assistant commissioner's answer is unacceptable. He started by saying that there was a cutback here and a cutback there and that An Garda Síochána did not have this. He said gardaí were not really aware of the number of breath tests being carried out or that they were part of something which they monitored. If nobody was aware of any of that, it is very funny that, instead of not recording it or recording little or no information, everybody decided - very conveniently - to record massive increases in the numbers, which suited themselves and a narrative that flattered the activity level of An Garda Síochána. It was a very self-serving mistake, regardless of who was in place or the lack of management. Mr. O'Sullivan said he was not aware that it was quantifiable but people did not simply record a zero entry while telling their boss they had been out doing the tests for an hour; they made up an enlarged figure that made everybody look good. It only takes one or two managers in any place to have some integrity and, when they see something careering off the rails, to call a halt. Unfortunately, in this area nobody did.

Does Mr. Ó Cualáin wish to respond?

Mr. Dónall Ó Cualáin

We had a large cadre of management in An Garda Síochána, at both garda and civilian level, and I am certain that the vast majority of them are people of the highest ethical codes and values. If they had seen anything in the nature of what the Deputy is putting forward, or it had came out in a report, they would have notified us much sooner.

I dtús báire, ba mhaith liom comhghairdeas a ghabháil leis an gCoimisinéir gníomhach as an bpost an-dúshlánach nua atá aige. Níl obair éasca le déanamh aige. Tá súil agam go mbeidh sé an-rathúil sa phost sa bhliain atá le teacht. I welcome the acting Commissioner and congratulate him on his new position, which is probably the most difficult job in Ireland at present, whether acting or not. I wish him well. In his report, he mentioned that gardaí and senior management had a responsibility to put An Garda Síochána right and he is correct about that. He is not alone, though, and the responsibility extends beyond An Garda Síochána to the Government, Members of the Oireachtas and oversight bodies. There needs to be recognition that he is not on his own in having to solve the problems. Others, myself included, have responsibilities too.

I want to ask some questions of the assistant commissioner, Mr. O'Sullivan, but I first want to recognise another issue mentioned in the opening statement, which was the report of Dr. Shannon on the use by An Garda Síochána of section 12 of the Child Care Act. An Garda Síochána is subjected to a lot of criticism but that was not the case in Dr. Shannon's report and when the force does things well it deserves to be commended on it. One of the most extraordinary powers this State has is the ability to take a child away from its parents and Dr. Shannon says that gardaí performed that role admirably and with sensitivity.

Am I correct that the assistant commissioner's report cannot definitively conclude what the reason was for 1.4 million breath tests that were on the PULSE system but did not happen? He comes up with a number of options which he thinks are likely explanations, one of which is the inflation of breath tests by members of An Garda Síochána. Is that correct?

Mr. Michael O'Sullivan

That is correct. We came up with three explanations. First were issues around recording, which were significant. The second was potential inflation and the third was estimation.

Mr. O'Sullivan looked at an eight-year period from around 2009 to 2017. There were approximately 520,000 checkpoint incidents during that period. Is that correct?

Mr. Michael O'Sullivan

It was closer to 502,000.

For the purpose of the report, he looked at a sample of approximately 2,000.

Mr. Michael O'Sullivan

Yes, we did some random sampling and looked at 2,136 cases in connection with recording errors. We looked at all the checkpoints, which amounted to 3,971, and these had over 50 breath tests recorded, which we thought was high. We also looked at 1,984 based on an analytic formulation and a total of 2,134 seemed not to be right, though we could not be sure why. It may have been because of recording issues so we returned them for further examination in the regions.

After each checkpoint incident, is a member of An Garda Síochána not required to contact the Garda information services centre, GISC, and provide it with information about the checkpoint?

Mr. Michael O'Sullivan

Yes, that is correct. Sometimes it was done from the roadside and at other times it was done when they returned to their station having finished their tour of duty.

Are all of those recordings still available?

Mr. Michael O'Sullivan

Yes. There was a seven-year period going back to 4 October 2010.

It is completely unrealistic to expect gardaí or anyone to go back and listen to all of them. Part of Mr. O'Sullivan's explanation for why the figures are inflated is that, after a checkpoint incident, a garda phones up the Garda information centre and is asked how many cars they stopped in an evening. They may reply that it was 20, 30 or 40. Was there such a level of unscientific communication between gardaí and the GISC at that time?

Mr. Michael O'Sullivan

Yes. I highlight recording issues because there were two different interpretations of how the figures were to be recorded and two conflicting manuals in existence. There was one at GISC and one with the operational gardaí. Among my recommendations is that, in future, there is joint training for GISC and the gardaí. On many occasions we heard both bodies disagreeing on what numbers should go into what boxes in PULSE incidents. This resulted in significant data error and the figures were out of kilter by 6 million at one stage.

It easy for us now to go back and be critical but were the gardaí who did these checkpoints apprised of the importance of accurately calculating the number of cars that were stopped, irrespective of whether there was a positive breath test?

Mr. Michael O'Sullivan

No. I would have to agree. I do not know why we needed to count the number of cars. They are not counted by the police services in Northern Ireland, Scotland, the United Kingdom or Canada. I could not find a rationale for it and in fact, having done checkpoints in my time, I would find it extremely difficult to try to perform a checkpoint and at the same time count the cars passing behind me.

In fairness, when gardaí stop cars to check tax and insurance, do they count the numbers of cars that are validly taxed and insured?

Mr. Michael O'Sullivan

No. Again, that was an anomaly. If I stopped a driver tonight to check his or her NCT disc and if the NCT disc is in order I tell the driver "Have a good night and good luck". I do not record that check. I did not get the rationale for recording the fact that a person had passed a breath test or why one would record that.

How is the current situation changed? When An Garda Síochána states in some future report that in 2018, it stopped 1 million drivers for breathalyser tests, how can the public be satisfied that the information would be accurate?

Mr. Michael O'Sullivan

I will bring in my colleague Mr. Finn to answer that.

Mr. Michael Finn

We have changed the way we record that, with regard to the PULSE system, since we were last before the committee. We no longer record all those data to which Mr. O'Sullivan has referred. We record the basics such as the Dräger device number, start number, finish number and the system automatically calculates the numbers. The garda is asked back to verify if it was ten cars that were stopped for breath tests. We have changed the system so we will not be recording all the multitude of data and the confusion as referred to in Michael O'Sullivan's report. That has been put in place since 13 August.

I shall now turn to holding gardaí accountable for this. What has An Garda Síochána proposed? Is it feasible to go back and start examining some 502,000 checkpoint incidents that took place over a period of eight years to see who did perform their functions accurately and who did not? Is that feasible?

Mr. Dónall Ó Cualáin

At the moment the only report that I have, as the acting Garda Commissioner, is the one that Assistant Commissioner O'Sullivan has given to me. There is an additional piece of work he has directed local Garda chiefs to carry out on the data that apply to their areas. We are also awaiting the publication of the Crowe Howarth piece of work. We should wait to see the outcome of all of that before we decide our next steps. As I have said, it is unacceptable that people would do what was proposed by the assistant commissioner in his report. At whatever level to which this may be attributable, those people must be held to account. That is on the basis of what we know to date but when we get the full information that is required, we can then move on to making decisions about what we will do next in the context of holding people to account.

I thank the acting Garda Commissioner and his team for coming in to the committee and I wish him well in his new role. I also acknowledge the work of Assistant Commissioner O'Sullivan in what was a comprehensive report. As Deputy Brophy said, it is important that the Joint Committee on Justice and Equality recognises and acknowledges the great work done across all levels of An Garda Síochána. Reference was made to the public attitudes survey and it is mainly positive. It is important that this is mentioned because it is difficult in a process of change when one has issues such as this to deal with. I reiterate and echo the comments made by Dr. Geoffrey Shannon about the sensitive and compassionate use of section 12. While changes can be made, one of my concerns when this committee engaged with Dr. Shannon was that sometimes, when there is an excessive analysis of this, there could be a reluctance to use section 12. It is important that members of An Garda Síochána continue to have confidence in using section 12. It has been found that gardaí have been using it appropriately. Tusla also needs to address some of its issues in respect of not following through and giving feedback to members of An Garda Síochána when they are dealing with particular matters.

I shall now turn to the breath test issue. In his report, Assistant Commissioner O'Sullivan referred to the over-ambitious scheduling of mandatory alcohol testing, MAT, checkpoints with local management as a factor in some Garda members inflating breath test figures. Mr. O'Sullivan's report states, "This examination has found that by failing to review the capacity to carry out the number of ... checkpoints which were being set down for front line members, management were intentionally or inadvertently applying pressure and that this was a contributory cause which lead to the discrepancy between the PULSE and Dräger breath test figures." Does this give some weight to the Garda Representative Association, GRA, line that there was some element of pressure? Why does Mr. O'Sullivan feel that management made over-ambitious scheduling of checkpoints? Will Mr. O'Sullivan tell the committee what was the reason or rationale behind that?

Mr. Michael O'Sullivan

The rationale is included in the executive summary; while the outcome was undesirable the focus of management appears to have been the persistent detection of intoxicated drivers and the saving of lives. There is no doubt in my mind that this was the focus of all the Garda divisions. The focus was on the enforcement of drink-driving legislation and saving lives. We know that this was achieved in many divisions across the country at the time.

I will wait for the Policing Authority independent report to come out, but there was a sense that if ten checkpoints were scheduled, five might be done. If 20 were scheduled then there was a good chance that ten might be done. I do not agree with this. I believe we would have been far better off organising two checkpoints to be done and ensuring that the two were done. It was a perception, certainly from the Garda members to whom I spoke and the GRA representatives, that they felt by having so many checkpoints scheduled, gardaí felt under pressure to achieve the checkpoints and ensure they were done. At this point I have no evidence of it but in some instances it may have resulted in numbers being entered on PULSE for breath tests that were not completed. At all times, in everything I found, the genuine aim was to ensure that MAT checkpoints, which are legislated for, were scheduled - as the acting Garda Commissioner has said - to detect drink-driving and save lives on the roads.

In his overview, Mr. O'Sullivan said how under section 4 of the Road Traffic Act 2010, MAT checkpoints were introduced and how during the period pre-2009 most MAT checkpoints were not electronically recorded and that some local managers developed a practice of recording these under the generic category, which I believe we addressed these before, of "Attention and Complaints". This outlines that there was no process of data collection or recording. How did the Road Safety Authority, RSA, then publish figures for breath-tested MATs for 2007 and 2008? The RSA said there was 489,029 tests in 2007 and 563,115 tests in 2008. What was the process of data collection for those MAT checkpoints if the report says that they were not being recorded?

Mr. Michael Finn

The data at that time were purely manual records. We went back to establish if we could verify any of that information. I do not have it right now. I have checked in the bureau where I work and that information is there but it was based on manual records. Back then we did not have the IT systems to support it and it was based on the reports we got in from the divisions around the country. Subsequently, we brought in the electronic version to coincide with the 2010 Act where the mandatory alcohol testing checkpoints came in, which had to be prescribed by legislation.

By way of explanation there is a small bit of logic in why divisional officers schedule checkpoints.

One could not do a mandatory alcohol test unless it was scheduled. The superintendent had to make out the schedule in advance. If he or she said there would be just two for the night and the first was not completed for operational reasons, there would be other checkpoints to give the gardaí some options. Perhaps it was an over-ambitious scheduling, but those checkpoints had to be scheduled and authorised legally before they could be conducted. That might go some way towards an explanation as to why we scheduled more than we did.

Would Mr. Finn say the figures from 2007 or 2008 were more or less accurate than the figures after that period, or is it-----

Mr. Michael Finn

I would be more inclined to rely on the electronic version of the figures than the paper version.

Would it then be fair to say that the records from 2007 and 2008 cannot be verified?

Mr. Michael Finn

I cannot verify them. That is a fact.

I want to go back to another point. Assistant Commissioner O'Sullivan mentioned that there was no performance management regarding mandatory alcohol testing checkpoints and that they were based on reducing road deaths. This is mentioned in many of the Garda's policing plans. In correspondence with the justice committee, Assistant Commissioner O'Sullivan has said the results of breath-testing were not used as a performance indicator. He has also said the results of road-testing were not used as a performance indicator. Is it the case that neither was used as performance indicators?

Mr. Michael O'Sullivan

Yes, absolutely. Nobody knew they were recorded. Very few people knew that one could access the tab on the PULSE database that would highlight the number of breath tests. Through all the competitions for promotions in the period in question, in all the competency application forms and in every job description, nowhere was it ever mentioned that a certain number of breath tests is a requirement.

Many of the policing plans - I have a number of them here - mention performance indicators in which the lead responsibility or process owner around divisions and regions were related to breath tests. For example, in one policing plan the number of MAT checkpoints and the number of over-the-limit arrests made in Waterford in 2012 are outlined. In Dublin metropolitan region, DMR, south in 2012, the number of persons breath-tested and the number of MAT checkpoints performed are outlined. For Tipperary in 2012, the continued use of MAT checkpoints is referenced. For DMR north central, the number of MAT checkpoints, the number of persons breathalysed at MAT checkpoints and the number of arrests as a result are outlined. These data were detailed in the policing plans, and part of this is mentioned in the assistant commissioner's report. The data are listed as actual performance indicators. How are they incorporated in terms of performance management? We have the correspondence stating there was no performance management regarding breath tests or MAT checkpoints but in most of the policing plans, there is mention of the number of MAT checkpoints and the number of breath tests performed. It looks like a contradiction but perhaps the witnesses could clarify it. There is a lead responsibility. The policing plans mention chief superintendents and superintendents. How are those performance indicators incorporated at that level?

Mr. Dónall Ó Cualáin

Policing plans, the first of which to be published is the national policing plan, outline our very broad, overarching goals. The Policing Authority has been very much involved with us in this process since its formation but, as that cascades down to the regions and the divisions and into the districts, we must give a certain amount of latitude to the local management to interpret it in the context of the issues for them in their own respective areas. We have just started to roll out a formal performance system within An Garda Síochána. Previously people were not individually measured, or could not be because the system was not there regarding any of these key performance indicators, KPIs, so it would be a matter for local management to decide what they felt were the issues for them in the context of achieving a national outcome, which was directed from the Commissioner's policing plan for a given period.

We know those policing plans were incorporated from when the checkpoint process begun in 2006. Does Mr. Ó Cualáin think that performance management process and the KPIs that were detailed in all the policing plans had a contributory role in the inflation of breath test figures?

Mr. Dónall Ó Cualáin

No, I do not think so. We have been working on the whole process of policing plans for some time and are trying to embed it. It is another aspect of our culture and management to ensure that in everything we do, and we do an awful lot in different ways daily, we can capture what is happening. A very good aid in that context was having a prepared policing plan ahead of time in order that one can see what the organisation needs to achieve and one knows, say, at superintendent level, no matter where they are in the country, that they can see at the end of the year how they contributed to the delivery of An Garda Síochána's policing plan as an organisation in order that it is all aligned. All relevant work that is happening must in some way be recorded in order that we can feed it all back into the centre and measure what has happened in the context of any given outcome we are hoping to achieve.

Would that process have given weight to the observation by the Policing Authority chairperson, Ms Feehily, that there was an implicit expectation? Would Mr. Ó Cualáin say there is a link between the implicit expectation regarding the number of MAT checkpoints and the number of breath tests? Did that generate an implicit expectation regarding the targets that were there? Obviously, this would have come from the policing plans.

Mr. Dónall Ó Cualáin

I will go back to-----

Does Mr. Ó Cualáin think it would be fair to say that the over-ambitious targets, as mentioned in the Garda's report - I accept they are multivariable and factorial - would have been a contributory factor?

Mr. Dónall Ó Cualáin

We would have to consider what motivated the local officer. In my view, the only evidence we have at present is that the gardaí involved were doing it to reduce road deaths and improve road safety. That was the main focus.

On a separate point, was there any evidence of-----

Will Deputy Chambers try to-----

I will finish now.

I must keep moving on.

Deputy O'Callaghan mentioned the Garda Information Services Centre and the fact that some of the data were submitted at the point at which they were attained. Was there evidence of those data being changed above the level at which they were submitted, or was it all front-line manipulation, according to the Garda report?

Mr. Michael O'Sullivan

If Deputy Chambers reads what the report says about the issue of the stopped and controlled vehicles, which contributed significantly, in my view, to the poor recording, he will see that quite often, because two manuals were in existence, the Garda Information Services Centre would send a review clarification to the garda who uploaded the data. The review clarification resulted, I think, in the numbers being increased or, in some cases, decreased in about 0.4% of incidents. That is a role of the review clarification, and there is a chapter in the report on the issue of the vehicles stopped and controlled. I would not use the word "falsification"; I think it was poor training on the part of both the call-taker in the Garda Information Services Centre, GISC, and the gardaí involved and neither understanding the other's position as to what was required in the various boxes.

I am withholding a comment I would have passed at this point, but others will no doubt take it up. I call Senator Frances Black.

I thank all the witnesses for coming before the committee. I will speak from my experience of working in another area. Regarding Dr. Geoffrey Shannon's report, I worked with a family who had a child about who they were very concerned and the way the Garda members treated the family was fantastic. One garda in particular gave them unbelievably good support, more than Tusla, social services or any of the other organisations. In my own experience in that area, they were absolutely fantastic.

I will not ask any questions about the breath-testing.

I feel like we have been here loads of times previously and I would like to move on from it. I would like for it not to happen again and I would like to refer to Mr. Ó Cualáin's comments about the culture within the Garda. I imagine it is quite toxic and this is of concern. He referred to the culture changing, better training, resources and systems and providing a better police service to the public. How will all this happen? It will be a huge undertaking. What needs to be done? What does he intend to do in this regard? Could he give us an idea? It would be great to apply the model the Garda uses for children in other areas.

I am specifically interested in the area of addiction. I would like those with addiction to receive a little more empathy and compassion from gardaí, as well as older people and victims of crime. This should be examined because that is where we need gardaí to be to the fore. We need that feeling of security. How does Mr. Ó Cualáin think he can change the culture? What does he need to do around it?

Mr. Dónall Ó Cualáin

It is broadly acknowledged that changing culture is a difficult task. However, we will not be discouraged by that. At a high level, strong leadership is needed at the start. Leaders who are convinced of the path they must take are needed and then every member of staff in the organisation, including every garda, civilian and Garda reservist, needs to be on board with the support of their management to achieve what we all know is achievable but which will take some time. It is not as if we have not started that work. We have an ambitious programme of reform and renewal, which kicked off last year, because we got a commitment to investment and, as one of the Senator's colleagues said, external support is important for this. We will not do this on our own. We have a big part to play in it but we will need the continued support of all our oversight bodies to ensure we leverage and get the best bounce out of every penny invested in the organisation over the coming years with this ambitious programme of reform.

Some of the issues we have had to answer the committee on during our past few visits go back to bad systems and processes, which need to be updated. I have been all over the country and visited staff at all ranks. There is a huge level of goodwill among the public because of gardaí going above and beyond the call of duty but we need to ensure the values they bring to the front line and the new code of ethics - it was one of the first jobs of the Policing Authority - are embedded in the coming months and are to the forefront of all our people's minds as they go about their duty. That applies to everyone in the organisation. There is a multiplicity of factors and it will not be easy but we have made some gains in that space. There is a challenge for me, and for my management. We have to ensure we get out to the people on the front line and ensure they are being supported but we need all of them to make sure we make progress in this area. It is one of our top priorities that after all the small pieces of the mosaic are fitted together, our overall culture will be the overall winner from that in the context of doing our job in a much more transparent and better way where our ethics and values are easily seen by all concerned to be the backbone of what we do.

Mr. John Twomey

I would like to add some specifics to the acting Garda Commissioner's comments. It is interesting that the Senator asked this question because we launch our internal culture audit today. Everybody who works in the organisation will begin today to take part in a culture audit, which is being led by Mr. Singh who can outline the details. We will identify what makes up the fabric of the organisation and what makes us think the way we think and act and behave in the way we do. That has not been done previously. This will be a benchmark, which will lead us to a detailed action plan as to how we can improve on the learning. All these reports provide us with opportunities to learn and the culture audit will do that as well.

We as a senior management team will undergo training on the code of ethics next Tuesday. We will provide strong leadership by acting on, and living up, to the nine pillars of the code ourselves. We will lead that from the front and demonstrate that in everything we do, including every action we take and every decision we make. From a cultural perspective and from an ethics perspective, we will provide that leadership from the front.

The Senator mentioned victims. We have a great deal of work done in this area and we will continue to improve that. How we provide empathy to all victims is one area that has shown considerable improvement in our public attitudes survey. We have victim services offices set up all around the country. We have a protective services bureau to provide specific highly trained skills to the most vulnerable victims. In the area of addiction, we have a great deal of work ongoing with other agencies, particularly in the various drug treatment centres in Dublin city centre as a key example. There is a lot of work going on and all the piecing together will improve bit by bit, day by day, the service that we provide but there will always be room to improve. This is a process and improvements will always be needed but these are simple examples from a cultural and ethical perspective, as well as from the perspective of victims, of the detail regarding the work we are doing.

I dtús báire, ba mhaith liom gach dea-ghuí a thabhairt don Choimisinéir gníomach. Má éiríonn go maith leis is le leas na tíre a bheadh sé. De bharr sin guím gach rath air.

Like other members, I would like to acknowledge, notwithstanding the various issues we are discussing and that I will raise, the good work of An Garda Síochána. In particular, I have witnessed at first hand the impact in my community and in my own locality that good community policing has made. I am very much an advocate of this model and I am sure Assistant Commissioner Finn can attest to the good impact community policing has had in Cork. Notwithstanding that, I echo Deputy Brophy's comments. Many of these issues, some of which we have not touched on such as the financial issues in the Templemore training college, fixed charge penalty notices, and breath tests, are utterly unacceptable and are a poor reflection on the manner in which the organisation has conducted itself in recent years.

I will focus on the fixed charge penalty notice issue. Since 2006, 146,865 summonses have been issued incorrectly to people who subsequently paid a fine, 14,700 of whom were convicted in court and paid a second fine. I am aware a process has begun whereby the Garda is writing to all those affected explaining what happened and proposing how to reimburse fines and correct records. The letters state if they consent, An Garda Síochána will commence a process of appealing the fines on their behalf and so on.

What has been the take-up so far and what will be the cost of the process under way?

Mr. Michael Finn

A little more than 3,800 people have indicated that they wish us to pursue an appeal on their behalf and the Courts Service has indicated that these appeals will be scheduled for December. It is an ongoing process. We initially wrote to almost 8,500 people. We identified another 2,000 while the process was under way and I have written to them also. I expect the number who wish to pursue an appeal to increase as people take stock of the letter we sent and receive advice from their solicitor on whether to pursue the matter. As I said, 3,800 have indicated that they wish us to pursue it. There are many people we have not managed to contact. We initially wrote to them by registered post. The letters have now been sent to local Garda stations for efforts to be made to contact them. We have tracked down almost 1,500 people by chasing up the letters and going door to door to ask whether people have moved house and, if so, ascertain a subsequent address for them. The process is by no means finished, but a tremendous amount of work has been done. When I started this process in April, we went back to the very start and widened the scope in order that we would be guaranteed not to miss anything. We examined every case where there was even a possibility of a person having received the wrong letter or having been prosecuted erroneously. I think 99% of relevant cases have been identified. It is a big process which is taking a considerable amount of our time and court time, but considerable progress is being made.

What is the expected cost?

Mr. Michael Finn

The Courts Service would have to be consulted to get an exact figure, but an indicative cost for the first batch of 8,500 is in the region of €1.6 million, less than €1 million of which had been paid. If we were reimbursing those that had been paid, it would be just short of €1 million based on the 8,500 cases the Courts Service examined in approximately September.

This issue is slightly different from the breath test scandal, although no less serious, as it has had a direct impact on individual citizens, some of whom perhaps faced more serious consequences than a mere fine. I raised with the Policing Authority last week the fact that the Irish Examiner had reported that in several cases people had faced more serious consequences. The case of a man in Cork who had been incarcerated on foot of a false prosecution, served time in prison and consequently emigrated was reported in the Irish Examiner on 20 September. Another case it reported involved a person who had been arrested at her home in front of her neighbours and sent to Limerick Prison, which must have been very embarrassing for her.

The process of contacting people in relation to fines and so on involves a large category of people. When I raised this issue with the Policing Authority, its chairperson, Ms Josephine Feehily, said it had put the broader question of impact beyond just a conviction on the Garda agenda as long ago as last March and pointed out that the Garda would need to think very seriously about the broader impact on those who might have lost their livelihood or licence and be prepared for actions that might be taken against it. She would not be surprised if civil actions were to ensue in several cases. However, she also stated she was not aware of a process having been begun by the Garda to deal with the matter. There are very serious implications involving the loss of liberty or livelihood or damage to reputation. Has a process to deal with that issue begun? Has the Garda prepared for such possible actions and is it aware of how many people potentially faced imprisonment or other serious consequences as a result of the false prosecutions taken?

Mr. Michael Finn

More letters are still being received, but approximately 119 solicitors have contacted me about their concerns about the consequences for their clients. I do not want to comment on individual cases, but some of the media coverage is not 100% accurate. No one went to prison as a direct result of a single FCN-type offence. Anybody who was in court and subsequently ended up in prison was sent there for a multitude of issues, of which an FCN might have been one. If a person had no insurance or committed another offence with an FCN-type offence, it could have been listed as part of a batch of court outcomes where he or she was sent to jail, but nobody was sent to jail solely for committing an FCN-type offence. Any situation where a person convicted of an FCN-type offence ended up in jail was as a consequence of also being charged with a series of non-FCN-related offences.

I understand. Will Mr. Finn confirm whether anyone was arrested on the basis of these-----

Mr. Michael Finn

In the context-----

Persons might have been taken to a Garda station but not necessarily charged.

Mr. Michael Finn

It is possible that people who opted not to pay the fine ended up in prison. We are working with the Courts Service and individuals' solicitors to identify these cases and there may be civil actions in that regard. That will follow in tandem with the process of the Garda appealing all cases. The solicitors of such individuals are in touch with us and we are engaging with them in that regard.

Is it the Garda procedure just to engage with solicitors on an individual basis or is there a------

Mr. Michael Finn

The Garda will not be the only agency that will deal with this issue as the State Claims Agency will also be involved. Other agencies, with An Garda Síochána, will contribute to resolving these issues and that process will run in parallel with the overturning of convictions in court.

Mr. Finn will accept that the implications are very serious and that it is likely there will be court cases as a result.

Mr. Michael Finn

I have no doubt that there will be court cases. An Garda Síochána will deal with them and be open and upfront. We have admitted the mistake we made and will participate openly, honestly and fairly in dealing with the consequences whatever they are.

In relation to its most recent report, I find it remarkable that the Policing Authority is only satisfied with nine of the 50 recommendations An Garda Síochána claims to have been completed. The recommendations cross a wide range of areas and competencies and several relate to civilianisation. How does the acting Garda Commissioner account for such a significant discrepancy between the Garda level of satisfaction with the implementation of the recommendations made and that of the Policing Authority because clearly where the Garda sets the bar for implementation and where the Policing Authority does are two different places.

Mr. Dónall Ó Cualáin

The recommendations the Policing Authority was considering in detail were related to the 11th report of the Garda Inspectorate. That is only a segment of the much bigger programme of work being carried out. I have mentioned the very ambitious programme of work that includes all recommendations made in all Garda Inspectorate and external reports which have been fed into our modernisation and renewal programme. A civilian executive director was recently appointed to head an office charged with assisting us in tracking how we are doing on all of the recommendations made. The Policing Authority decided the level of scrutiny it wished to apply. We have been talking to it about that matter and will continue in that space. In some cases there could be a difference in interpretation as to when something was completed. Some of the initiatives are large and have many components. It is unacceptable that the Policing Authority would be given wrong information and we want to ensure that is not the case. It may be a question of interpretation as to when something was completed. Is it when it is launched and put in place or when every single aspect of the detail is delivered on?

That could take a few years because some of these initiatives are very complex, they involve information and communication technology, ICT, and bringing in skilled resources from outside. In order to get it up and running we had to use whatever resources we had until such time as we got the civilian skilled resource to take on some aspects of that role. We are in conversation with the authority and I welcome that level of scrutiny because it is important that when we go to that forum we deliver an accurate picture of where our modernisation and renewal programme, MRP, is at any given time. There is so much work going on in that area that it is important to have people internally who can track it for us and the external scrutiny that will call us to account for where we are at any given time.

While I understand that there might be differences in interpretation, they range across a wide area. The gap between nine and 50 is a large number of recommendations on which to differ. The process of replacing the Garda Commissioner will be lengthy. What does the acting Commissioner intend to do to ensure that the pace of reform while that is going on does not slow but continues?

Will the acting Commissioner clarify for the committee the exact process for the reopening of Garda stations? At the Committee of Public Accounts last Thursday he said in reply to one question: "What the Government does is the Government's business. All I can do is based on what went in and what came back. There was a need to await the final report, I would say." The acting Commissioner also said he did as the Government asked him to do.

I had sight of a response to a parliamentary question from Deputy Farrell on the reopening of Rush Garda station which states: "...the Garda Commissioner is primarily responsible for the effective and efficient use of the resources available to An Garda Síochána and I, as Minister, have no role in the matter." It is important to clarify who exactly takes the final decision. Is it the decision of the acting Commissioner alone on the back of recommendations to reopen Stepaside or any other Garda station? What is the exact relationship between Government decisions and the acting Commissioner's role in decisions like that?

Mr. Dónall Ó Cualáin

In response to the question on the pace of reform in respect of our overall MRP, I am focusing at this juncture on ensuring that we are properly resourced at management level to ensure that our ambitious programme of reform moves apace. We have laid out certain milestones which we hope to achieve over the coming 12 months. This is a five year programme which started last year. We learn more as we move on and as the environment changes we may have to re-prioritise. That is part and parcel of every major programme of reform. We have to ensure that the critical enablers that will allow us deliver on the overall programme are put in place as soon as possible and that includes the civilianisation, the skilled resources coming into the organisation to allow Garda members work on the front line and to take on additional jobs to get us through this phase and to get our own people, who would be employees of this organisation to a level of skill such that they can, once our reforms have been delivered, deliver the ordinary continuing change scheme in a professional and efficient manner. That is in addition to ensuring that we continue to provide the public with a quality service for its protection, and support communities. That is our first objective. That is the day job and we cannot take our eye off that. We also have to ensure, however, as a second plank that we move on with our modernisation and renewal programme.

Assistant Commissioner John O'Driscoll, who is the author of the interim report, is here. Last week at the Committee of Public Accounts, I said that the programme for Government contained a commitment on the reopening of six Garda stations on a pilot basis. That came to An Garda Síochána. It was then a matter for us, based on our knowledge and professional opinion, to decide where these things might happen, based on the high level criteria that came with the correspondence from the Department. Assistant Commissioner O'Driscoll did that work and he can explain in detail how he approached coming to a conclusion on where those six stations might be. That is a matter for me as acting Commissioner to recommend. It is a matter for the Commissioner of the day to decide where those stations are and to recommend them to Government. Assistant Commissioner O'Driscoll can give more detail on that.

Mr. John O'Driscoll

This process commenced with a letter from the then Minister for Justice and Equality to the Commissioner asking the Commissioner to identify six stations for reopening. It set down particular criteria: a rural and urban inclusion and premises that remain in State ownership. The first task was to identify which stations remain in State ownership and that involved interaction with the Office of Public Works, OPW. A significant number of stations had been sold and those remaining I examined in detail. In the Dublin Metropolitan Region, DMR, there were only four available to consider. That made the task in Dublin easier than elsewhere in the country. The acting Commissioner, when he appeared before the Committee of Public Accounts, stressed the importance of local involvement in this decision making and I engaged with the assistant commissioners in the regions seeking their input and asking them to engage with relevant stakeholders.

There is a situation in An Garda Síochána such that of the commissioners who were serving on the day I was promoted in May of last year only one remains. All the others have been appointed since that date. I engaged with particular assistant commissioners at an early stage but there was a change in management and in Cork every chief superintendent had changed. I went back and sought an input from the new management team in the southern region and as recently as 19 September I received a response from that region which differs from responses I received earlier from a different management team. The emphasis is on ensuring that there is a local input, that I am not the one who is choosing a station in Donegal or west Cork or wherever.

On the basis of the criteria given to us, it was obvious that Stepaside would be number one of the four. I suggested that if there was to be a second one it would be Rush but there were criteria for circumstances where there would be two stations chosen in Dublin. The second station cannot be considered as a definite decision until such time as the other stations around the country have been identified. I expect that I will be able to conclude the work I am doing within the next two weeks. I can say categorically that no person has come to me asking that a specific station be opened. I have sight of all the parliamentary questions put by various public representatives about stations to be reopened. I stated earlier that I believed I would have the report completed on an earlier date. The then Minister for Justice and Equality in concluding the letter to the Commissioner asked to be kept informed of current developments and she and the current Minister for Justice and Equality have sought that information.

I have advised them that it has taken me longer than expected; that I have sought additional information from the various regions and all of that will be given in detail in the final report.

In the interim report I have stated that I believe caution should be exercised in terms of the use of crime statistics as a significant indicator of where a Garda station would be built or opened, because on that basis alone, one would open a station on one day and close it a month later and open up a different station in the following week. There has been a greater emphasis on population. I have also emphasised that there is a need to consider that in certain locations in this country at any particular time there is a temporary population, which far exceeds the population of an area, whether that be at Dublin Airport, which has 30 million people passing through it, or Dublin Port, or a college environment. I have suggested other criteria that perhaps should be taken into consideration when reaching a conclusion. In any event I will submit a final report to the acting Commissioner in the next two weeks, in which there will be recommendations in respect of six stations. It will be a matter for the acting Commissioner to decide which stations will be opened and to inform the Minister of that decision and the timeline involved. That will be determined following additional consultation with the OPW on the expense and level of work required in advance to bring a station into operation.

I thank Assistant Commissioner O'Driscoll. Deputy Ó Laoghaire is offering but he must be very brief as we must make progress.

We were given a great deal of information, but the question I specifically asked was who takes the final decision on the opening of a Garda station. Assistant Commissioner O'Driscoll said: "It will be a matter for the Acting Commissioner to decide which stations will be opened and to inform the Minister of that decision" but Acting Commissioner Ó Cualáin said: "make a recommendation to Government". I want to clarify whether the acting Commissioner makes a recommendation and ultimately it is the final decision of Government.

Mr. Dónall Ó Cualáin

Yes, I will be making a recommendation to the Department based on Assistant Commissioner O'Driscoll's report and the evidence he supplies to me.

A decision by Government.

Mr. Dónall Ó Cualáin


Okay Deputy. I call Senator Martin Conway.

I did not realise that the opening and closing of Garda stations was on the agenda today.

Let me clarify, it had not been advised and I consulted with the secretariat that if the acting Commissioner was happy to respond, as he has already addressed this issue at another committee, I was happy to let him proceed.

I have a number of other issues that are unrelated to what is on the agenda for today's meeting that I would have liked to raise as well. I do not blame members for raising issues, but I would prefer a scenario where time is put aside for members to ask questions on whatever they like. As that is not the case, I have opted not to ask the questions in other areas. Be that as it may, the information we received and the engagement has been extremely useful. I have always contended that we should consider mobile Garda stations in areas such as seaside resorts. For example some 1.5 million people visit the Cliffs of Moher every year and the Garda station in Lahinch was closed. I think there is a very strong case for the Garda station in Lahinch to be opened for a number of months in the year, given the tragedies at the Cliffs of Moher and the numbers who visit the Wild Atlantic Way. We may have that discussion on another day.

I welcome the acting Commissioner and I am delighted he has the opportunity to lead the force. It is a great honour for him personally. I have no doubt he will do an exceptionally good job. I am sure he agrees with me that it is important that everybody acknowledges the great work that is being done by the 14,000 gardaí on the ground. While there are serious challenges, overall things are far better than they are in many other countries. I am sure the acting Commissioner would also agree with me that it is important for all elements in the administration of justice to be on song, and that includes the Oireachtas committees, the Policing Authority and the various organs. That also includes the Garda Representative Association, GRA. Would the acting Commissioner agree with me that the comments from the GRA did An Garda Síochána a disservice?

Mr. Dónall Ó Cualáin

I thank the Senator for his comments and acknowledgment of the work being done by our front-line staff. In that context, I include all of our staff because our support staff, back at the ranch as it were, also play a vital role in all of that.

The GRA have a right to represent their members and I respect that. As I said earlier, the challenges we face as an organisation will not be solved by me or my management team alone, we will need lots of help, assistance and support right across the spectrum, including the associations, one of which is the GRA. I look forward to working with them in moving our reform programme along and in increasing the pace of delivery and the efficient way we hope to deliver it. All of the associations and unions across the board are critical stakeholders in how we do our business and I fully acknowledge that.

Does the acting Commissioner agree that the specific comments and the way they were articulated on national radio were at the very minimum not helpful to reform of the force and to public confidence in An Garda Síochána?

Mr. Dónall Ó Cualáin

I respect their right to represent the views of their members. What I have to do is to ensure that together we find a common road that we can travel together and ensure the critical challenges facing our organisation are dealt with in the best way possible.

The acting Commissioner is not going to say one way or another.

Mr. Dónall Ó Cualáin

I have just said that I respect their right to comment.

The acting Commissioner is also in a position to agree or disagree with the comments.

Many of my questions on the fixed charge notices on penalty points have been asked already. It has come to my attention that there are at least two individuals who received fixed charge notices, that will be the subject of an appeal, were denied job promotion as a result of not having a clean record. What does the acting Commissioner think about that as the head of An Garda Síochána?

Mr. Dónall Ó Cualáin

Without going into individual cases, any instance where a citizen has been affected adversely by inefficiencies in any process in An Garda Síochána will have to be addressed and we will engage fully in the context of ensuring that all of those matters are brought to a conclusion for all those individual citizens who were affected.

Mr. Michael Finn

In terms of data protection in respect to the people who have been convicted, I have put a note on our system that all of the persons who we have identified were wrongfully brought before the courts and that there is a caveat on anything we have recorded to say that this matter will be subject to an appeal in the courts.

I thank Senator Conway and call Deputy Clare Daly.

I will try to be brief and I hope the replies will be brief.

My first question relates to Dr. Geoffrey Shannon's report, the second the fixed charge notices and third, the maths test.

I note that the acting Commissioner has said that he has begun to adapt the recommendations of Dr. Geoffrey Shannon. How many have been implemented to date?

Mr. Dónall Ó Cualáin

May I ask Assistant Commissioner O'Driscoll to give the Deputy the detail as he is in charge of that area.

Mr. John O'Driscoll

I sit on a strategic liaison committee with senior officials in Tusla and we have undertaken the task of monitoring the implementation of the recommendations. We have been in discussion with Dr. Geoffrey Shannon in recent weeks and have had numerous meetings with him. We have agreed to implement all the recommendations with slight changes to some of them.

These changes were agreed in discussion with Dr. Shannon. Most of the recommendations will take time to implement in full but many have already commenced.

One of the most important developments in An Garda Síochána has been the creation of the Garda National Protective Services Bureau. Many of the issues relating to vulnerable victims, children in particular, have been brought into this unit and expertise has been developed within it. The bureau also has a specific unit dealing with child protection issues called the national child protection unit. This is distinct from the Garda national child protection unit because it has been agreed that there will be permanent Tusla involvement in the former. Having the agencies working together is a key recommendation in the report.

I apologise for interrupting. I know a number of the recommendations are for the medium term but my question was on recommendations that could have been implemented by now. I assume from the assistant commissioner's answer that none of these has been implemented. I will assist him on the issue. Has the recommendation to issue a laminated card to all gardaí been implemented? Has the recommendation on the recording of information on the PULSE system, which Dr. Geoffrey Shannon designed, been implemented? Has the recommendation on safety belts and car seats been implemented? How many of these relatively simple measures have been implemented?

Mr. John O'Driscoll

The laminated card is prepared and, following discussion, we added considerably to the information provided. A recommendation was made that a particular amount of information would be provided on the card, which has developed into an accordion-style document with considerably more information provided on it. I understand the card is ready to roll.

We have engaged with our transport section and other expertise on the child seat issue. It is complicated in so far as there is not a one-size-fits-all seat for children. A whole series of seats would have to be available to a patrol car. We have engaged with our transport section to find the best solution for this.

We are under time pressure. The assistant Commissioner's answer appears to be that none of the recommendations has been implemented yet, although the report was finalised in January and published in May. While I appreciate the Garda is doing some work on the report, this gives a new definition to the acting Commissioner's words about accelerating the pace of reform, which remains slow. As we do not have time to continue the discussion of this matter, I will move on to the fixed charge notice.

Mr. Dónall Ó Cualáin

I would like to make a point on the car seats in particular. The whole reason for this was to ensure children taken into care would be conveyed in a safe manner to wherever they were being brought. That is our absolute priority. Children do not necessarily have to be brought in a patrol car. We can arrange transport which has the required specification, for example, if more than one child is involved. There are many combinations and permutations to this issue. Our objective will be to ensure any child taken into care is conveyed in a safe manner to wherever he or she needs to go.

That is why Dr. Shannon made his recommendation. The point I am making is that the recommendation has not yet been implemented. If this issue is as important as the acting Commissioner says it is - I agree that it is important - the recommendation should have been implemented by now.

On the fixed charge notice system, while I know the report on this matter is internal, this has been an unmitigated disaster. Apart from the consequences the matter will have in terms of people's lives, it will cost the State a fortune in compensation and repaying money, not to speak of the hours gardaí will spend correcting it. The report basically states that the reason the problem arose was the failure to inform the Garda Síochána information centre, GSIC, that from December 2014, a driver had a statutory right to be given the option to pay the fixed charge notice without a certificate. There was, therefore, a breakdown in communications. Who was responsible for this?

Assistant Commissioner O'Sullivan pointed out that there was no training and no overall governance in place. Who is taking responsibility for that?

Mr. Michael O'Sullivan

That is a very narrow view of a document of 85 pages. Taking the whole system in its entirety, one should read the Garda Inspectorate's report of 2008, which focused on this area, and the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission's report, which also focused on this area. I stated in my report on the fixed charge notice system that the GSOC report "concentrated on the areas that were causing members of the public to make complaints, however in doing so, the report highlighted areas that would improve the overall operation of the system going forward". The GSOC report highlighted that the system was not fit for purpose.

The GSOC report was produced in 2008.

Mr. Michael O'Sullivan

It was in 2009.

Exactly, and that was nearly eight years ago.

Mr. Michael O'Sullivan

Yes, the report was on the fixed charge processing system. A subsequent report by the Garda Inspectorate also highlighted the deficiencies in the fixed charge notice system. What occurred in the system was that rather than introducing a new system at the time, it was fixed piecemeal. A gap would appear and be plugged, only for another gap to appear and be plugged. The system was added to in a piecemeal fashion. Our recommendation is to look again at the system in its entirety. It is probable that if the recommendations had been taken on board at the time, these issues would not have arisen.

Is that not the point? Two statutory bodies reported on this matter almost eight years ago. The Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission stated the system did not need to be confused as there were too many types of fixed notice charges. In the intervening years, however, more charges were added to the system. In 2014, at the height of the scandals into fixed charge notices when the public eye was focused on the issue, the Garda Inspectorate issued a report, yet the Garda is only now looking at it three years later. Assistant Commissioner O'Sullivan states in his report that, in his view, one of the reasons for the problems was the lack of senior staff at the Garda National Traffic Bureau during the period in question. The GNTB did not have a designated assistant commissioner in this period during which seven different chief superintendents were assigned to it. This returns us to the issue of responsibility. Who is responsible for the turnover of management in this area and the failure to fulfil roles? I ask the assistant commissioner to address the point that an assistant commissioner for organisational development and strategic planning was in place during that timeframe. Assistant Commissioner Jack Nolan performed this role between 2012 and 2015. The Garda Inspectorate report informs us that this role, which was filled, has corporate responsibility for GISC as well as information management and data quality issues. While the GNTB may not have had an assistant commissioner, was it not Assistant Commissioner Nolan's job to oversee the data?

Mr. Michael O'Sullivan

We need to highlight, as I stated, from the basis of what we examined in detail, whether a lot of the recommendations had been taken on board, but they were not. The ICT budget did not exist, hence we had to operate a system on a piecemeal basis which is what created many of these issues. It does not matter who was watching. These issues would still have arisen because in my view, and in the view of the other external agencies which examined the system, it needed to be rebuilt, not patched up. I highlighted the changes in staff.

We should await the report of the Policing Authority which is due in the next week or two. Part of its terms of reference are the role of behaviour on the various ranks during this period in relation to both reports. The supervisory environment and the role played by the various supervisory ranks are also part of the terms of reference. They also include a review and assessment of the process employed, the outcomes of each and the investigations carried out by me. It would be very wise, in relation to those issues in particular, to await the independent examination which is due next week or the week after.

Is it not a contradiction for the assistant Commissioner to say it did not matter who was watching given his earlier point that nobody was watching because the Garda did not have the people in place? When I pointed out that there was an assistant commissioner in place who had this specific brief in his portfolio, the assistant Commissioner stated the situation was a little disjointed. This links to the other point in his report that the PULSE bulletins issued to ordinary gardaí contained extensive and confusing information. Who designs these systems and who is responsible for them? Where is the management oversight? That is the question to which we keep returning.

I will now address mandatory alcohol testing, MAT, because I am conscious of time.

The first point in that regard is that there appears to be a writing out of the involvement of the Medical Bureau for Road Safety in this from the narrative. While it is true that there was correspondence from the RSA in 2014 relating to the breath test issue, it took over a year for the Garda to begin an investigation into the matters. Throughout that time the Garda was involved with the medical bureau, which is responsible for this equipment. The bureau is not mentioned in the narrative or the report at all, yet the acting Garda Commissioner tells us today, as if it is a great step forward, that one of the solutions is that the medical bureau has commenced a tender process for the new Drager devices which will improve recording.

Is it not the case that this process started in summer 2015 and, following detailed consultation between the medical bureau and the Garda, the Garda requested some information that it now does not want in that process? Even though the medical bureau was ready to go with new equipment over a year ago the Garda changed the specification, which will cost considerable amounts of money. As Professor Denis Cusack said in information we got under freedom of information, it will put back the entire process of procurement, approval, testing and ultimately the supply of the new devices for between 18 and 24 months. A process that management in An Garda Síochána was involved in with the medical bureau to get new devices has been kicked to touch. Despite the acting Garda Commissioner telling the committee in his introduction that a new system is coming forward as if that is great, he forgets that this was in train two years ago.

Mr. Dónall Ó Cualáin

I will ask the assistant commissioner, Michael Finn, to respond.

Mr. Michael Finn

I am familiar with the process with the Medical Bureau for Road Safety. It is providing new equipment. The Dragers we have are over ten years old. A decade in the technology world means they are totally obsolete. Undoubtedly, we must replace them. The Medical Bureau for Road Safety supplies the equipment to us. It owns them and we use them. Certainly, what has happened in recent times has caused us to go back to the bureau and use the learning we have acquired from that because we do not want it to happen again. We have asked the Medical Bureau for Road Safety to change the specifications in some regards so we can prevent what we are dealing with today from recurring. I was not aware that it will set it back two years. That is not my understanding of the current position. The devices have gone out to tender and that tender process is being re-examined. I am not aware that it will kick it back two years-----

It is in correspondence issued to the Garda, which we got under freedom of information, in which the medical bureau clearly points out that this is the case and that the process was ongoing, against the backdrop where the Garda had knowledge of the problem.

Mr. Michael Finn

I am not aware of the date of that correspondence. I am relaying my experience in the context of recent meetings I had with the bureau on the procurement process. I do not believe it will cause us to wait another two years before we have the new devices. In fact, I believe we will have them in 2018. That will prevent a recurrence of the difficulties which brought us to the current position.

Perhaps it is the fear of outside influence, but the point is that the Medical Bureau for Road Safety had that information all along. It could do the tallies on the devices. There was all the searching around for information on the number of breath tests but the number was known if somebody had picked up the telephone and asked the bureau for the tally. There does-----

Mr. Michael Finn

To be fair to the Medical Bureau for Road Safety, it has been very helpful to us and it was instrumental in unearthing the difficulties that we encountered. However, it does not see itself as a custodian of Garda breath test devices. It would be adamant in saying, and we would acknowledge, that it is not its responsibility to count how many breath tests we carry out. That is within our remit and we have changed our IT system to ensure we can be the masters of that, rather than having to go to the Medical Bureau for Road Safety. The bureau would not see that as its remit.

I agree that it is not its remit. However, is it not the point that all of these issues come back to a cataclysmic failure of management to oversee any of these processes or systems? There appears to be a lack of awareness of why they are there. Take the example of the MAT test. The report basically states, "we did the internal investigation, we are not really sure what has gone on here but there is a number of reasons that we think it might be so". One of the issues is that there was no awareness of why this information was being recorded. I agree that this is a credible answer. However, who designed that system? In every other checkpoint operated by the Garda ordinary rank and file gardaí are asked to record where an offence occurs. They do not record the motorists who have motor tax, just the ones who do not. What genius came up with the idea that the gardaí would record the cars that went through anyway? I agree with the witness. Why would a garda have a problem with ringing up the information centre and saying it could have been 30 or 40? No crime was being carried out so why would the Garda see that as falsified information? I do not.

Is it not the case that the issue here is not breath tests at all, but checkpoints? Deputy Brophy pointed out earlier that a garda would go out on duty and when he came back he would make up the figure when he rang the information centre, because he did not really know what the information was for. How does the Garda know that he did go out and come back? How does the Garda know the checkpoint was conducted? Is it not the case that senior officers were mandated to put up a checkpoint on PULSE? It had to be put up on the system. If that was not carried out afterwards, it was supposed to be invalidated. Certainly, from our experience of talking to gardaí, that often did not happen. Management should have known. It would have known. If the two of us were on duty in the station that night and we got a section 12 warrant and had to drive off with a child, we could not physically have been on that checkpoint that the superintendent told us to conduct. We simply did not have the manpower resources. How do the witnesses know that those checkpoints were cancelled? Based on the reports, there was a pressure to carry out checkpoints. Can the witnesses credibly tell us that all the checkpoints that are on the system were invalidated if they were not carried out? Certainly, from our dialogue with rank and file gardaí that was the unspoken pressure. Nobody wanted to say that the checkpoints were not being carried out. Is that not really the issue? It is not about breath tests at all. Will the acting Garda Commissioner respond to that?

Mr. Dónall Ó Cualáin

With regard to the checkpoints and why certain information may have been recorded and why they might differ from the ordinary checkpoint where somebody might be stopped for not having tax or whatever else, it is clear from the statutory requirement that this must be a random system. For example, if one were to state that one stopped five cars at a given checkpoint, that might be the absolute truth but they are not the only five cars that passed through because if they were one could be questioned on the random element of how one selected people to be stopped. That might have been part of the reason that this piece of information was recorded, to show that more cars went through than were stopped for the purpose of breathalysing. That is-----

How does the Garda know that the checkpoints were conducted? The report says that it was paradoxical that the amount of breath tests dropped but the number of checkpoints went up. The report states this is surprising, but it is not surprising at all if checkpoints were not being carried out. My contention is that they were not being done.

Mr. Dónall Ó Cualáin

Here is the challenge. One of the four, five or six items the assistant commissioner said had some input here was supervision. Supervision was key. Supervision is the only way one will know whether what one directs as a manager is carried out. During those years, a period of austerity when there was a moratorium on recruitment and promotions, there were huge gaps in our supervisory levels and capacity to go out and check.

Can the witness explain how the Garda had the officers of a certain rank, be it inspector or superintendent, in sufficient numbers to sanction the checkpoint but the manpower resources did not stretch to that same person concluding their job and finding out whether the checkpoint was carried out? Regardless of who is in the station, if I have authorised a checkpoint and when I arrive at the station in the morning I find that two fellows were arrested or whatever and there was chaos in the station, it does not take a genius to work out whether the lads could have been out on the road carrying out a checkpoint if they were driving a child to a different county or if they were processing ten people for arrest. Where is the data on that? That is far more serious because these are mandatory checkpoints. My understanding of what has happened here is that this is a far bigger scandal. This is a problem with checkpoints, not breath tests.

Mr. Michael O'Sullivan

I would reiterate what the acting Commissioner said. On our site visits to the Police Service of Northern Ireland, Police Scotland, Essex Police and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, we asked them all the same question as to how they ensure the checkpoints are done. The answer is supervision. It is glaringly apparent to me and from the report that supervision was absent across all the divisions in respect of MAT/MIT checkpoints. How do we know they were done? We would have to go back to Deputy O'Callaghan's question. Do we look at 502 checkpoints, go through them and listen to the recordings of the phone calls? That would take 21 years. The answer is supervision. There must be adequate supervision and sergeants available at front-line level in the traffic corps and in districts, stations and divisions to supervise the checkpoints. That is how it is done in other jurisdictions.

It is utterly shocking that to find out the Garda went to Canada and Wales yet nobody said to the superintendents in the stations: "Listen lads, if there is a return for a checkpoint there, we might want to make sure that they were not actually doing another job at the same time as they are claiming to have done a checkpoint." I am not blaming individual gardaí for this. The only way it adds up is that there was pressure, once a checkpoint went up on the system, to say that it had been done regardless of whether it had or not. That is the only thing that makes sense.

In that context, the witness has said there was a problem with supervision. Is it now his contention that senior management have lost all authority among the membership? It was striking that only seven people answered Mr. O'Sullivan's survey on this issue. By contrast, Geoffrey Shannon had 100% compliance. Is Mr. O'Sullivan saying they have lost the trust of the membership? In the context of his claim that this was a supervision problem, why in God's name would he now target individual gardaí and accuse them of inflating breath tests when he accepts that they did not know what the information was for and had no credible idea that it could be involved in any wrongdoing because they were not reporting any crimes? Surely continuing with that line is incredibly unhelpful and demoralising for ordinary gardaí.

Mr. Michael Finn

If I might respond on the element of the checkpoints, it was not mandatory for people to do the checkpoints. The mandatory aspect was that it was mandatory for the person who was stopped to give the sample. That is where the word "mandatory" came from. There was not pressure on people to write down that all those checkpoints had been completed. In fact, over 40% of the checkpoints on our system are invalidated because they did not happen. That system was there. If a checkpoint was not done because a garda was on some other duty, such as escorting a child to safety, it was necessary to mark the checkpoint as being completed.

Mr. Finn is misunderstanding the point. A checkpoint must go up on the system to be authorised initially. If it is not carried out, the manual says that if the checkpoint is not done, it must be invalidated later. I know that. What evidence does the Garda have that all checkpoints that were not completed were invalidated? Based on the information they have given me, the witnesses cannot say with certainty that all checkpoints that were not invalidated took place.

Mr. Michael Finn

If a checkpoint is not done and the garda for some reason does not come back and update it, our system will invalidate it.

How would it do that? If I said I was on a checkpoint and I rang in and gave the GPS co-ordinates of the site - everybody knows the co-ordinates going out on these things - and I said, "I was out here, we stopped six cars, there was no issue", where are the checks to say that I was there?

Mr. Michael Finn

Technology has moved on. We now have the automated vehicle and personnel location system, AVPLS, inside our Garda stations. I can see on the screen where the patrol car is. If a garda says he is out at one location doing a checkpoint, and I can see that the patrol car is outside in the backyard, that is how I know. I do not even have to go outside the station.

Since when is that system in place?

Mr. Michael Finn

We have had AVPLS certainly for three or four years anyway.

Gardaí have told us that the checkpoint co-ordinates are well-known, so gardaí ring up and give the co-ordinates of where they are supposed to be.

Mr. Michael Finn

That may very well have been the case going back eight years or whatever-----

No, it was not that long ago.

Mr. Michael Finn

-----but nowadays technology has moved on and we have the capacity to look up where a patrol car is on the screen.

That might be a way of going back and getting the information. Based on what Mr. Finn has told me now, the Garda does not know. There are no checks and Assistant Commissioner O'Sullivan has said there was very poor supervision, so there would not have been a check done to make sure that I was not in two places at the same time. This is exactly my point. Had anybody gone and checked, they would have seen that somebody cannot be in two places at the one time.

Mr. Michael Finn

I can comment on where we are right now. Certainly there were difficulties in the past and Assistant Commissioner O'Sullivan has found them and articulated them in his report. I am talking about what we can do, where we are now and how technology has moved on and can assist us in making sure that supervision can be provided.

The report deals with issues up to the first three months of this year. We are not talking about historical issues at all.

All right, Deputy Daly. We have been here over two hours at this point and, while members are able to leave and use the facilities whenever they wish, our witnesses cannot do the same. I will suspend for exactly five minutes to allow for a toilet break.

Sitting suspended at 11.25 a.m. and resumed at 11.30 a.m.

I welcome acting Garda Commissioner Ó Cualáin, the gardaí present and the technical team. I grew up in an area where people respected the Garda, and I believe that over the last number of years the respect has decreased. My respect for the Garda has not decreased, but from listening to many people in my constituency I believe it has gone down generally. The damage has been done over the last number of years, and the final straw was when the fixed penalty and breath test scandals came to light. They were very badly handled, and it is very important that it does not happen again. We need better policing, we need changes, and we need to get the public trust and respect for the Garda back.

Acting Garda Commissioner Ó Cualáin stated that it is very important that this new regime starts from the top down and the bottom up. I agree with that. Too many people are blaming each other, and this has to stop. We need a Commissioner who will lead from the front, will have the trust and respect of the public, and will do the job. I am a firm believer in getting it right first time. In the last number of years we have had two or three Commissioners who did not get it right first time. It is very important that acting Garda Commissioner Ó Cualáin gets the support and the resources that he needs to do his job, and I believe that he should start with a clean slate. It is fine for him to appear before various Oireachtas committees and different organisations and be constantly battered over what happened in the past. What happened in the past was wrong, and I know that the acting Commissioner will put a team together to sort out what happened in the past. It is very important going forward, and to be fair to acting Garda Commissioner Ó Cualáin we have to give him a clean slate going forward.

It has been stated that crime is down and that drugs have been taken off the streets. That is a good start. I come from Dundalk in County Louth. It has had its problems over the last number of years, and as a public representative I have a very good relationship with Superintendent Gerard Curley, who has done a fantastic job there. I can only speak from my own experience. I see many more garda on foot patrol, more checkpoints, and more involvement in the local community. That means a lot to me.

The reopening of Templemore has been a big plus. We are getting more professional gardaí on the beat. There has been a big issue with gardaí retiring, so it is good to balance the books. We have to do something to increase the number of gardaí in the force. Too many gardaí are doing clerical work at the moment, sitting behind desks. We should increase the number of civilians working for the Garda.

As a former businessman, I would like to know what acting Garda Commissioner Ó Cualáin's plan is going forward. Is he only filling the role on a temporary basis or does he actually want to be the Garda Commissioner? Is he here for the next six, 12 or 18 months to fill the position or is he here to do the best job he can and put his name forward as the next Garda Commissioner?

Mr. Dónall Ó Cualáin

The Deputy mentioned the community in his opening remarks. We have to return to the fact that we serve the community, in whatever capacity we hold in this organisation, whether garda, civilian or reserve. That is our focus at all times, and that will be my focus. Any damage to that relationship is a red flag for the organisation. We have to give it absolute priority, because our success as a police service since the foundation of this State has been built on our relationship with the communities and the fact they have been happy to support us in doing what is an evolving and very complex job. To the person on the front line, dealing with a local community, the work of a garda may seem very simple. That is how it should be. We should be present in the community, be seen, and provide support and visible reassurance to members of the public.

The Deputy asked me what my vision was and where I want it to go. I want to ensure that for the time that I am leading this organisation that we do not - regardless of what changes might come about - lose that valuable tie that we always had with the community. That is where our focus will be, through our community policing initiative, and that is a main plank of what we hope to achieve over the coming years. The name "community policing" might indicate that this is some new initiative that has been taken off a shelf or out of a textbook. It is not. This is what we always did. It is our default position. We may have to vary or modify it depending on where we are, depending on whether it is an urban or rural situation, but we have to maintain our focus in that community way. My vision for the organisation is to ensure that with all the change that is about to happen, and is in fact already happening, that we do not lose that. It is the family silver, as it were, and is something that we cannot afford to lose. We are the envy of many other police services worldwide, which see the manner in which we can go to our communities for that support when we need it. I have served in every province of this country, in different capacities and different ranks, and the common thread that runs through all our work is that we have that good relationship.

At times it dips, of course. There is much negativity at the moment because of all the issues that have arisen. That has to have an impact on public confidence. I accept that but we depend on the individual gardaí at local level to ensure that local confidence is there. If we combine all that local confidence together then nationally, the public will have confidence in the police service. We have much to learn and we have lots to do to bolster that confidence but that is what I am setting out to do at the moment. I made clear at the outset, on my appointment as acting Garda Commissioner, what my priorities were and they go back to my first point about community. That is where we are - the delivery of a day-to-day service for the people of this country, supporting them and keeping them safe. Parallel to that, we are moving on as quickly and efficiently as we can, in the context of all the help we will require, including from this committee, to ensure that we get the delivery of cultural change, investment, increased civilianisation and the return of gardaí to the front line who had to come off it to do critical administrative work. That work is needed in order to ensure that we are accountable but it does not necessarily require those with Garda powers to carry it out. We are very ambitious in that context and thank the Government for its commitment to an increase in our civilian capacity which will be doubled over the coming years. We have a very ambitious programme at the moment which is moving on under our chief administrative officer, who will ensure that we get delivery of those people in the fastest possible manner so that we can release gardaí to the front line. Getting people in from the college and releasing people from desk duty will increase our visibility on the front line. A lot is happening.

That is my vision for the organisation while I am in charge over the coming months until such time as a replacement is found. I have every confidence in the Policing Authority to carry out its functions in that process.

I believe that Mr. Ó Cualáin will do a good job. I also believe that he deserves a clean slate. Is he ambitious enough, though? I am a business person and I grew my business because I was ambitious. Is Mr. Ó Cualáin here for the short term or the long term? There is nothing wrong with stating that he is ambitious and wants to carry on. I am sure there are others in the force who would love to have the opportunity to be acting Garda Commissioner but he has the opportunity at the moment. He is holding the ace. It is very important for the public to realise that we now have a very ambitious acting Garda Commissioner. I would like to see Mr. Ó Cualáin here for the long haul because switching and swapping is not good. As I said earlier, we need to get it right first time.

This is my first time at this committee and perhaps I am making a statement that is too strong. I do not know Mr. Ó Cualáin very well but I have read about him and have spoken to colleagues about him. I believe he is in a strong position at the moment. People have suggested that we should go outside the organisation to find a new Garda Commissioner but I firmly believe that the person who is doing the job, who wants to do it, who understands it and who wants to get the job done is the person who should get the job. I would not be embarrassed if I were Mr. Ó Cualáin because he has the qualifications and he is entitled to seek the role. Mr. Ó Cualáin should let people know that he is not in here doing a temporary job but that he wants the job permanently. He should be given an opportunity to do his job. The previous Garda Commissioner maintained that she did not get the opportunity to do the job that she was asked to do. I urge Mr. Ó Cualáin to put his stamp down and not to be afraid to tell people what he wants to do. He has a job to do at the moment and the people of Ireland deserve to have the right person in that job. They have a right to feel secure in their homes. They have the right to feel safe. It is about time that An Garda Síochána stops getting kicked down the road and stands up for itself.

I do not think it is appropriate to force the acting Garda Commissioner to fill in the application form here at the committee. It is sufficient to note that Deputy Fitzpatrick has great confidence in Mr. Ó Cualáin, as I am sure we all do.

Mr. Dónall Ó Cualáin

All I can say is that I will be here for as long as it takes and will not be shirking any of my responsibilities. I will be leading from the front in that context.

Thank you very much. Deputy Wallace is next.

I thank the witnesses for coming in. I would like to start with a question for the Assistant Commissioner, Mr. Michael O'Sullivan. My question relates to the breath test report. Will Mr. O'Sullivan explain why some submissions from the AGSI and a rank and file garda were dismissed? In that context, I wish to quote directly from the report, as follows:

It was believed that managers used increased enforcement levels at a time of reducing resources to improve their promotion profile. To satisfy Garda management demands and avoid conflict members reported they felt pressured to inflate numbers.

On page 63 of the report we find the following:

This Garda member also disclosed that there was competition amongst various Garda members that led to generous estimating of the breath tests conducted at checkpoints.

These quotes seem to be at odds with the conclusion in the executive summary on page 4, which reads:

The examination team found no evidence of any tangible benefit which would have acted as a catalyst to encourage Garda members to inflate breath test figures. There was no career advancement or other obvious rewards to be gained from engaging in this practice.

I ask Mr. O'Sullivan to explain why the submissions were dismissed.

Mr. Michael O'Sullivan

They were not dismissed; they are in the report. However, they were not substantiated by any other evidence or supporting corroboration.

We will have to disagree on that. I get the impression that there is a deliberate attempt in the report to remove any possible motive for falsifying breath test figures in the hope that people will then not believe that anyone in An Garda Síochána could have falsified data relating to the number of breath tests carried out or may even have been expressly or implicitly directed or pressured to do so by their superiors. It is difficult to accept that such a widespread practice, ongoing for so many years, was not known to senior management. Action should have been taken in these circumstances, even if we are to reject the evidence in the quotes to which I referred, and accept that there was no express or implicit direction to falsify breath tests. What does the witness have to say about that?

Mr. Michael O'Sullivan

All I can say is what is in the report, that I found no evidence of any tangible benefit which would act as a catalyst to encourage Garda members to inflate breath test figures. There was no career advancement or other obvious rewards to be gained from engaging in this practice. We found, as I said earlier, a whole load of other issues. That is what we found and nothing has changed since.

What does the acting Garda Commissioner think? Does he think that it is credible that this could go on for so long with senior management not being aware that it was happening?

Mr. Dónall Ó Cualáin

I have to accept, as I said earlier, the findings of the report. The only findings I have at the moment are the result of Assistant Commissioner O'Sullivan's piece of work. There is continuous work happening arising out of that report. There will be another report which, hopefully, will give us some indication as to where the actual issues were and what caused them. From the outset, on any of these issues, my focus would be on how it happened, why it happened and how we ensure that it does not happen again. In terms of the last piece, we have to start that work the moment we are aware of the problem. It is a hugely complex area because of the numbers involved and because it involves the whole country. Assistant Commissioner O'Sullivan's piece of work is very detailed. What he is saying essentially is that he has found nothing to corroborate certain aspects but if such evidence comes forward then, as I said earlier, where we have evidence of wrongdoing of any description by whatever rank in An Garda Síochána, those responsible will be held accountable.

My question to the acting Garda Commissioner was whether he believes it is credible that senior management did not know about this, despite the fact that it went on for years. "Yes" or "No"?

Mr. Dónall Ó Cualáin

What exactly is the Deputy's question? There is a lot in this. There are checkpoints, breathalyser tests and so on. What is the Deputy referring to exactly?

It relates to the fact that figures were being inflated for breath tests. Does Mr. Ó Cualáin think it is credible that this could have gone on for so many years in An Garda Síochána without senior management being aware of it?

Mr. Dónall Ó Cualáin

I believe so. There is nothing to suggest otherwise.

It is stated on page 76 of the report that "a degree of carelessness and estimation was part of the data collection process". Why is it that carelessness and estimation always seem to be in an upward direction? Surely an honest estimate would be too low as many times as it would be too high. The elephant in the room - the report goes out of its way to avoid pointing it out - is that many gardaí must have acted dishonestly and fraudulently when they provided false breath test figures and that many of their superiors encouraged this to improve their own promotion profile. Does Mr. O'Sullivan agree that what is really meant when the report refers to inflation or when the Garda Representatives Association refers to "elevation" of the figures is a dishonest falsification of crime data? Is that not true?

Mr. Michael O'Sullivan

I reiterate that we found no evidence of any tangible benefit that would have acted as a catalyst to encourage Garda members to inflate breath test figures. There was no career advancement or other obvious reward from engaging in the practice. Estimation happened in the call taking and interactions between gardaí. We are not talking about estimation at an upper level. On the reference to estimation, we know from the recording that there were checkpoints days later. There were no notes and estimation was used rather than accurate figures. That is my assumption. In the report I referred to it as not being deliberate inflation. We have separated it and put it as estimation.

In March there was a discussion between the Chairman and the former Garda Commissioner about whether incompetence or deception was the root cause of these issues. The former Garda Commissioner concluded her appearance before the committee on 30 March with the following comment, "I will conclude by giving the committee an assurance, as I did at the end of my opening statement, that we will identify those who are responsible and accountable for this and we will hold them to account." How many disciplinary actions are taking place arising from the two reports and at what rank are the subjects of the proceedings?

It is stated on page 101 of the breath test report: "It is the responsibility of the regional commissioners and divisional officers to have each incident identified fully investigated from a disciplinary perspective if it meets the required threshold". Given the massive disparity and exaggeration of breath tests between the different divisions - we can compare the figures of 385% in Tipperary and 18% in Wexford - does Mr. Ó Cualáin believe it is appropriate for some of the divisional managers who may have been complicit in the falsification to decide who is now disciplined? Surely the matter would more properly be handled by Garda headquarters in referring it directly to an independent body such as the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission, GSOC. It may also be that Garda headquarters should have referred the action or inaction of the regional commissioners or divisional officers to GSOC. What does the acting Commissioner think?

Mr. Dónall Ó Cualáin

There are no disciplinary cases initiated at this point arising from Mr. O'Sullivan's reports. The process continues with the data sets put together by Mr. O'Sullivan during his research which has been given to regional commissioners under the stewardship of the national roads policing bureau to ensure consistency across the board. It is to establish in more detail what the issues look like. When we get it back, we can move the process further. We need to get the feedback first to establish exactly what the matters might look like and how we might proceed. There are large numbers involved and all ranks may be affected, as the Deputy notes. I agree with the statement of the former Garda Commissioner that where people are found to have done something wrong, they will be held to account, regardless of rank.

I get the impression that responsibility for deciding who behaved badly is now being passed to people who may have behaved badly. They oversaw the inflated figures. Is that a strange way of doing things?

Mr. Dónall Ó Cualáin

Another piece of work is being done on behalf of the Policing Authority and it is an independent view. It should also give us some view as to how we should proceed. I am not ruling anything out at this stage as to how we might proceed and we should get the full picture. At that stage we will establish who is accountable and how he or she might be held to account.

My point is the end result of Mr. O'Sullivan's report is that we are going back to the people who oversaw the malpractice for a verdict as to who is responsible. That is nuts.

Mr. Michael O'Sullivan

To clarify, the team and I identified a series of checkpoints where the figures looked to be out of kilter in terms of the numbers at the checkpoint, the length of time the checkpoint was in place and the number of breath tests recorded. We have sent the data back to those responsible in the regions to examine them as they are best placed to examine it. There may be geographical factors, for example. We have not asked for any disciplinary investigation to be carried out, but that process is ongoing.

In parallel, the Policing Authority which has been referred to by the acting Garda Commissioner is finishing its independent examination. Part of that investigation is to consider the role and behaviour of the various ranks during all of this, the supervisory element and the role played by various supervisory ranks throughout the process. Of course, we must wait until that independent report is published to decide how we move forward.

I will ask Mr. Twomey some questions. For how long was he in charge of the Garda national traffic bureau?

Mr. John Twomey

I had partial responsibility in different periods. I had partial responsibility in 2010 and again for a period in 2014, with other responsibilities.

Would Mr. Twomey say he had extensive knowledge of the road traffic operation and how it works and runs?

Mr. John Twomey

I have knowledge of it.

When Mr. Twomey was in charge of the national traffic bureau as assistant and deputy commissioner, when was the first time it was brought to his attention that there was a problem with the breath test data? What did he do with the information and who did he inform?

Mr. John Twomey

My recollection is that a query was raised following the receipt of correspondence from the current Taoiseach. It was in early 2014 and raised a number of issues, primarily about checkpoints, not specifically breath test data. It raised issues in a specific part of the country, on which a report was submitted and some further inquiries were carried out. Later, coming towards the end of the year, we began to do some further work, initiated by my office in the Garda national traffic bureau. My recollection is that in March 2015 we began to look at all areas, taking in checkpoints and the equipment used.

The inquiry and the investigation was an initiative by my office in around March 2015. I am going from memory on some of those dates but that is my understanding and my recollection. That subsequently led to a more detailed investigation into the breath tests and that is the reason. That is where it started and how it started. It evolved from that period. It began in January 2014 following receipt of correspondence relating to a number of issues in a particular region in the country. Inquiries were carried out into that. Following receipt of that, there was some further work done. Coming towards the end of 2015, we received a final report on that. We then continued to carry out further inquiries and discussions. Sometime around early 2015, and I think the date was March 2015, we began to look at the mandatory alcohol testing, MAT, checkpoints, breath tests and the use of equipment. We did a broader analysis and examination in this entire area and then, as these issues arose, the breath test issue came into focus.

When the deputy commissioner was first made aware of this matter, did he bring it to the attention of the senior management team?

Mr. John Twomey

In relation to the breath testing, that was sent to all of the regional assistant commissioners in March of 2015. Again, the date is subject to confirmation because I am working from memory. It was in or around that specific time that we started to do the analysis work.

Did the deputy commissioner bring the matter to the attention of the senior management team at that time?

Mr. John Twomey

As I say, we wrote to each and all of the assistant commissioners. Every regional assistant commissioner was written to at that stage and every chief superintendent was asked to do an examination and an analysis in respect of the questions that we had posed to them.

When the deputy commissioner was in charge of the Garda national traffic bureau was he briefed daily, weekly or monthly about statistics on breath tests?

Mr. John Twomey

I probably would have had some knowledge of it on a monthly basis. As I say, I had other duties at that particular time. At one time I had three different roles. I would have had different information about it, but the information that is available is available nationally. It is not just available to one particular section. It is available to the entire country.

Bearing in mind that as the number of personnel in the Garda Síochána was going down, the breath test figures were going up, did the deputy commissioner query any of the figures he received each month?

Mr. John Twomey

There were queries. The figures and the data are collated at district, divisional and regional level. There are various supports relating to that. In the initial query that went out in 2014 on that specific issue, that was certainly one of the issues. I know that at different times, queries and questions were asked about this. We did answer the question that came out in early 2014, and then in early 2015 we asked for the detailed examination which, for a number of other reasons, eventually ended up in the information we have with us here today. That is how this situation and these circumstances evolved.

Let us compare what happened in Wexford with Tipperary. The report states there was an 18% disparity in Wexford and it was 385% in Tipperary. Given the deputy commissioner's position, did he not see fit to query each difference with each superintendent, the one in Wexford and the one in Tipperary, to see how in God's name people in effect lived on two different planets? Was that ever done?

Mr. John Twomey

That was the information that we unearthed as a consequence of the work that we started. We did not start off with that information. We started off with information that had been collated at the centre. I think we are mixing up the two points. The information and results that have come out were as a consequence of the work that I started and that was started in my office. At the start of that, we did not know what the conclusion would be, so there was a 12-month difference. We unearthed the information following the work that we did.

Given the deputy commissioner's position, did he not have access to the information that came from Wexford and Tipperary? Could he not see that there was a huge difference between the two of them? Was the information not accessible to him?

Mr. John Twomey

The information the Deputy is talking about came at the conclusion of the work we did. If we had had that information at the start, we would not have needed to do the investigation. That was the work that came out as a consequence and at the end of the work we did. We did not have that information at the outset. If we had, we would not have had the investigation or the inquiry.

In terms of the information the deputy commissioner received each month, did he not know what the figures were, at any time, coming from Wexford or Tipperary?

Mr. John Twomey

The Deputy has asked me whether I knew the end result of the inquiry at the start. That is not what I am at. There was information. There were statistics that were available at a regional level. The discrepancy only became evident as a consequence of the comparative work that was done with the Medical Bureau of Road Safety and with PULSE. That kind of comparison is not done daily. We have a set of stand-alone statistics. It was only as a consequence of the work we did that we were able to draw the conclusions we have drawn here today. We had individual sets of data. It was only when the inquiries were carried out, following the investigation initiated by my office, that we unearthed the information and what we have here today.

My understanding is that it was a whistleblower who brought it forward and that it was not something the Garda initiated. As a matter of interest, did the deputy commissioner ever visit either of the divisions of Wexford and Tipperary in this period? Did he ever organise an audit of either of them?

Mr. John Twomey

We organised the audit that unearthed this matter. Assistant Commissioner O'Sullivan visited both of the divisions.

Did the deputy commissioner ever visit either division?

Mr. John Twomey

I was not doing the individual audit or investigation. That was done by Assistant Commissioner O'Sullivan and he visited both of those regions. I think that the initial correspondence that was issued to us related to checkpoints. It was following on from that that the work was broadened. The investigation and the inquiry was done by Assistant Commissioner O'Sullivan, who attended and visited those divisions that we are talking about.

The deputy commissioner has told us that Assistant Commissioner O'Sullivan went out when he did. In 2014 or 2015, did the deputy commissioner ever visit either of the regions or did he ever initiate an audit in those regions?

Mr. John Twomey

I initiated the audit, yes.

Mr. John Twomey

In 2015. I have said that. I did visit some of the regions that were involved. Again, we should be mindful that I had two other roles at this specific period. I was the assistant commissioner in charge of Dublin at the same time. That was the issue. I did visit some of them, yes. During the course of the investigation and audit that was initiated by my office, they were visited in detail.

There is a biennial conference in Templemore, a think-in, every two years. Did the deputy commissioner give presentations on road traffic statistics at any of them?

Mr. John Twomey

I do not believe I gave them personally. They were probably given by other persons from the Garda national traffic bureau. I do not believe I gave them personally, no.

Will the deputy commissioner help the committee by identifying who did? Is it possible for us to be furnished with copies of the presentations? They would be useful to this committee. Is my request a runner?

Mr. John Twomey

I can examine that possibility.

On a number of occasions, the deputy commissioner issued press releases around holiday time and at bank holidays. These gave the impression that the Garda was taking praise for the high numbers. Have any of these press statements been withdrawn or is Mr. Twomey happy for them to sit on the record still?

Mr. John Twomey

What I am happy about is that over that period there has been a considerable reduction in the number of people who have lost their lives on our roads and in the number of serious injuries. If we look at this in its broadest context, the primary focus of An Garda Síochána is to make our roads a safer place. We do that in a number of ways. Primarily we do it through the enforcement of the Road Traffic Act. We also do it through education. We avail of the opportunity of press releases to inform the public of not only the role of An Garda Síochána but everybody's role to be responsible and that working in partnership we can make the roads a safer place.

We have achieved that objective and there has been a considerable improvement in road safety and a considerable reduction in the number of people who have lost their lives. We need to remember the core and key objective we were trying to achieve. In the mid-2000s and going back way beyond that, the number of people killed and seriously injured on our roads was much higher than it is at present. The record of An Garda Síochána and the other agencies working in this area is to be commended in many respects. From that perspective the work of An Garda Síochána has been well done. As was mentioned earlier by some of the other Deputies, we have had a considerable reduction in the number of people killed on our roads. As we sit here today, there has been a reduction in 2017 over 2016. That is a key core objective.

We continue to focus on the enforcement of the Road Traffic Act on the key offences to save lives. That is only part of the role. The work that has been done has been very good and we will continue to do this. I accept we have made mistakes along the way and that we will find areas to improve. We will continue to do that next year, the year after and every other year. The key objective of An Garda Síochána was to reduce the number of road deaths and serious injuries and I think we have achieved that.

As head of the traffic bureau-----

I ask the Deputy to try to-----

As head of the traffic bureau, how many times did Mr. Twomey meet representatives of the Road Safety Authority, RSA?

Mr. John Twomey

I may not have an exact number. I would normally meet them on a number of occasions a year. There are formal monthly meetings with them. I would not attend those. Other staff members from the traffic bureau would meet them. I would meet them at various conferences and various formal events. I would probably meet them formally once or twice per year. Again, I cannot give specifics here today.

The RSA was able to go to the then Minister, now Taoiseach, with information on this. Even though Mr. Twomey was head of the national traffic bureau, he did not seem to know what was going on. However, the RSA did and was able to go to the then Minister with information. Given the responsibilities Mr. Twomey had, how in God's name did he not know what was going on all that time?

Mr. John Twomey

We received the correspondence in early 2014. I have outlined what we did with that and I have outlined what I initiated in 2015 regarding this issue. I think I have outlined the action we have taken. We have a very good working relationship with the Road Safety Authority. I again come back to the great work that has been done. The meetings we have had with the Road Safety Authority are on a monthly basis at different levels. We took the correspondence we received and we acted on it. As a consequence of all of that work, it has brought us to where we are today.

The common trend in all Mr. Twomey's replies to me is that senior management is not taking responsibility for what happened.

Mr. John Twomey

I think the common trend in what I have said is that I have outlined the action we have taken - conducting the audit, identifying the issues, bringing them into the public domain, resolving them and addressing them. The work regarding taking accountability is still going on and we cannot answer that question at this stage.

The deputy commissioner has not identified where the problems are. He and his colleagues are kicking the can down the road in saying they are looking at various things. Surely senior management has to carry the can. If I build an office block and the first floor falls in, the courts will not going looking for the fellow who poured the concrete or shuttered it. They will go looking for me. There have been suggestions that the rank and file gardaí who gave false figures will be identified. Does Mr. Twomey not accept that the buck stops with senior management?

This will be the final response.

Mr. John Twomey

The report states that we have identified policy issues and they are being and have been rectified. It has addressed governance issues and they have been addressed with the establishment of the new roads policing bureau. It has addressed supervision issues. They are currently being addressed in terms of the resource allocation and deployment. It has addressed issues of training and those issues are also being addressed. We had a previous question about behaviours. They are also being addressed through the culture audit and the code of ethics. It has also identified an IT fix. They have been and will continue to be introduced. It has identified a multiplicity of factors which have contributed to the issue. Each of those has been dealt with. We are in the process of doing further examinations, as the Assistant Commissioner, Mr. O'Sullivan, has said. We are also awaiting a report from Crowe Horwath and that will also influence the next steps. Nothing is completed. However, I have outlined action taken in six different areas. A lot of work has been done on that. There is work ongoing in other areas.

I will allow two brief supplementary questions.

I ask the assistant commissioner, Mr. O'Driscoll, about the report he delivered on the reopening of Garda stations. He delivered that report to the Minister for Justice and Equality on 9 June. In the days and weeks prior to that did he or anyone else in senior management in An Garda Síochána get a request from anyone in government to deliver an interim report?

Mr. John O’Driscoll

My request would have come from the Commissioner of the day to submit the report or through the channels through the deputy commissioner's office to submit the report. As I stated earlier, I had advised that I believed I would have completed the final report at an earlier time. Not having done so, I think I issued the first interim report in March and the second one in June. I am not sure where requests would have come to if requests were coming from elsewhere to the Commissioner's office or the deputy commissioner's office or wherever. It was on the basis that we had been requested to advise of developments. I was in a position to advise as to how the process had developed up to that time or up to those two specific dates in March and June.

Did the former Commissioner in the days prior to the delivery of the report ask Mr. O'Driscoll to deliver the report to the Minister?

Mr. John O’Driscoll

I think I received a request. I had a number of reminders. I had reminders in writing asking me for an update. There is probably correspondence indicating that I was again asked if I was in a position to give an update.

Was that shortly prior to 9 June?

Mr. John O’Driscoll

As with any file that is outstanding, there could have been a number of reminders over a number of weeks prior to that, which led to my first interim report and then led to the second interim report. Since that I have been asked again. I think I have had a number of requests in writing to see where it stands. I have given an update regarding where it stands.

In his evidence to the committee, Mr. O'Driscoll said it was obvious Stepaside would be number one out of four. Why was it obvious?

Mr. John O’Driscoll

For a start, there had to be a station for Dublin.

With only four stations available, there was a 25% chance that it was going to be Stepaside. Three of the four were clustered close together, including Kill of the Grange, Dalkey and Stepaside. Considering the population around those three stations, it is clear to me that Stepaside was the one. Further, one station had to be bigger than the other chosen. I was aware and had discussions with people who served previously in that area. I knew there had been discussions about the viability of Dalkey in advance of the decision to close it. Considering all the information, Stepaside came at the top of those three. Stepaside was the biggest of the four stations and the criteria given were that the next had to be a smaller station. I would not advise that the next station, being smaller, would be one of the other two in close proximity, which left no option other than Rush, on the proviso that there did not necessarily have to be a second station in Dublin based on the criteria. It was just that if there was a second station, it had to be smaller. Rush had the population advantage where criteria to justify it being open were concerned.

Based on the criteria given to Mr. O'Driscoll by Government, was it obvious that it was going to be Stepaside?

Mr. John O'Driscoll

I am not aware of the knowledge that existed about how many stations were still available to open. Other stations closed in Dublin but one, Whitehall station on Griffith Avenue, was converted into a facility for the State pathologist and other stations had been utilised for other reasons. When the criteria were provided, the station had to be from among available buildings. I do not know the extent of others' knowledge of how confined those criteria were.

I am not asking about Mr. O'Driscoll's knowledge of other people's knowledge. Was it obvious when he looked at it objectively that, based on the criteria he had been given, it had to be Stepaside?

Mr. John O'Driscoll

Having examined all the criteria, yes. However, I have a cautionary paragraph that when I initially looked at Stepaside, crime figures were going up. When I returned to it and analysts provided me with information, I could see the crime figures going down. As the acting Garda Commissioner said, it was critically important that we took on board the views of local management. The local divisional officer, the chief superintendent, recommended to me to choose Stepaside station. The then newly appointed assistant commissioner in Dublin, Pat Leahy, examined the recommendation from his divisional officer. The divisional officer made a recommendation which was examined by his regional assistant commissioner and accepted by him. I then added to it the information received from analysts and I, being the person ultimately to make the recommendation to the Commissioner, also agreed with the recommendation.

I thank Mr. O'Driscoll.

I have huge sympathy for senior management in An Garda Síochána where this issue is concerned. It has been framed by Government. It is comparable to a primary school teacher asking what two plus two is and expecting a student provide an answer of four. As the witnesses have mentioned, the Government gave them the criteria. Are they comfortable with the Government dictating criteria about policing issues? On the independent authorisation as a police force, should it not be for the witnesses to decide what stations they feel are appropriate with their own criteria? Would Mr. O'Driscoll have been more comfortable, as an assistant commissioner, in dictating the criteria to Government and letting that inform the process of which station should be reopened, rather than gardaí being told what to do? I gave the primary school example to demonstrate how Garda management has been really framed with this. I have great pity for members of the force that were before the Committee of Public Accounts last week. In my view, they have been framed and thrown under a bus by Government with regard to this issue. The Minister and Department officials should set the criteria to provide answers for this.

As a senior member of the force, would Mr. O'Driscoll prefer to set the criteria and dictate, in his independent management position, what he feels is the appropriate set of criteria as an experienced member of the force, rather than being told what they are? That cycle and joining of the dots obviously came to the answer of Stepaside. The witnesses are really just providing legitimacy and cover for Government, which is wrong, in my view. I am not blaming the witnesses and they are obviously in a compromised position because they cannot comment on Government matters. If this process was commenced again, would the witnesses prefer to have the discretion to set their own criteria? They mentioned ports, airports and colleges, but they are not prioritised now because of the parameters and framework proposed by the Department.

Mr. John O'Driscoll

On the last matter, the acting Garda Commissioner made an important comment in that he said that we are aware of the political situation but it is not for us to get involved in that. I am aware of that. When it comes to a general election, each party will go to the people and say what it would like to do about policing. We might prefer one proposal over others but it is a matter for the people to vote the Government in. Where we have an arrangement such as happened as a result of voting and there has to be negotiation between parties, we also realise that there is negotiation about policing issues and it is in that context that we understand that this proposal was agreed.

On our independence, there may be an element of frustration that I have not completed my report yet. I think that is because of the independence that we have shown. Nobody has put pressure on me. When I have said that I am not ready yet, it has been accepted. I have submitted interim reports. When I decided, though nobody asked me to, that maybe other criteria could be examined, I put them in that report. I believe it is important to include them. Another issue I raised in it is the mobility project. The extra funding given to us by Government for technology is going to go partly towards a mobility project which will allow access on the ground by members of An Garda Síochána to databases such as PULSE without having to be in stations. I give an example from New Zealand in that report and how that has prevented a necessity for consistent returns to stations. We hope to go on a pilot in the near future to show just how beneficial this will be in one particular city in Ireland. That should also be taken on board. I will leave it to Government to examine other recommendations that I make. It is important to note that when the six stations are chosen, there is also a programme prepared by our housing section for priority for developments of new stations and renovations of stations. The decision has yet to be made as to where this will slot into that schedule of requirements.

I spent some years working in immigration and was hugely concerned that we did not have a Garda station appropriate to dealing with foreign nationals who, for a number of reasons, might end up in either Garda custody or interacting with us. I made a firm recommendation related to that and mentioned it in detail in the report. I understand that the go-ahead is now there to proceed with developing that facility at Dublin Airport which will go a long way and which I sought for many years. I was very critical about it not existing. I think that is, in fact, getting significant priority and will perhaps be dealt with ahead of other issues. We are also aware, and I mentioned it in my report, that the station on Fitzgibbon Street, which I served in for many years, is also given priority because of the gangland and drug issues.

Should An Garda Síochána not make the decision and set the criteria? It is a "Yes" or "No" scenario. It is important. I know Assistant Commissioner O'Driscoll might not want to answer, but would he be comfortable with a future recommendation from Government to examine a further eight stations that slot around a particular parameter? Would he prefer to have it by the criteria the Garda is recommending moving forward rather than to be constrained by the criteria detailed by Government?

Mr. John O'Driscoll

I would not like to deprive any of the political parties that are represented here, or the Independents, from proposing all sorts of issues in respect of policing.

We subscribe to the Policing Authority and removing politics from policing, which is better for members of An Garda Síochána. The force is being told how to utilise its resources because of a political stroke, which is wrong.

It is called "political policing" because of the legislation.

I might not get an answer, but it is important to record that I have sympathy for what the Garda had to go through last week. The Government and departmental officials put two and two together and the Garda had to answer "four". The Garda was not given the opportunity to set its own criteria and decide where was the appropriate place to open a new station or reopen an alternative one. Moving forward, it should not happen again. I accept, however, that Assistant Commissioner O'Driscoll might not want to comment on a political matter.

I thank Deputy Jack Chambers and the assistant commissioner. I call Deputy Brophy. As night follows day, I expected his hand to rise.

I thank the Chairman. As, I presume, we are coming to the end of the session, I thank the witnesses, particularly the new acting Commissioner, for the co-operation we have all experienced today. I am one of those people who believes it is the role of this committee to quiz, interrogate, investigate and put our views to witnesses and for them to answer our questions. I record again that I deplore "gotcha" tactics in any committee or structure. Such tactics are designed to ambush people and arrive at pre-determined outcomes. It is also important to record the fact that the time of senior police officers, the force's top management, is very valuable. Having to attend multiple committee meetings because they and their members are competing with each other to rehash continuously ground that has already been covered is very regrettable. It does no service to politics or politicians.

Respectfully, I disagree completely with my colleague who questioned Assistant Commissioner O'Driscoll on the last point. All Governments of every hue have the right to express an opinion on policing and to communicate. The Department of Justice and Equality is involved, with its Minister, in the development of policing policy. Ultimately, that Minister has accountability. It would be laughable if the Minister and the Department had no say. It is farcical that political parties which spend hours talking about which post office should or should not remain open would not wish to have an opinion expressed. The point is well made that An Garda Síochána is not to be politicised. The assessment and view of what should be done and how, coming back from the management of An Garda Síochána, is a vital part of that. However, there is also a role in the overall structure for the view of the Department and of Government. That said, I thank the witnesses for the manner in which they have worked with us today.

I thank Deputy Brophy. There is no response to that. I have a couple of final points myself. In his opening address, the acting Commissioner stated:

All of us in An Garda Síochána must now take responsibility to change our systems, practices, behaviours and culture so these issues cannot happen again and confidence is rebuilt. It is a collective issue and can only be fixed from the top down and the bottom up.

That is very important. I agree with colleagues that this is not a situation in which any of us wanted to be. These are issues which have presented themselves, whatever their genesis, particularly the breath-testing debacle. As someone who respects An Garda Síochána and has an excellent working relationship with the acting Commissioner's colleagues within my constituency and the divisional areas attaching thereto, it is very important to recognise that some of the points made here today will not wash. They will not run. I wish no personal disrespect to Assistant Commissioner O'Sullivan, but the point he made about estimation rather than inflation is not one anyone on the committee can buy. I cannot speak for the members but I listened to them all very carefully. We cannot buy the notion that this was all just about estimation, which is how such incredibly inflated figures arose. "Falsification" is the word we have used. I do not think we are going to fulfil the goal of restoring confidence, to which the acting Commissioner, quite rightly, referred in his opening remarks, in any exercise that is intended to or appears to pull the engine of it all out. I cannot buy estimation in this instance and inflation. At the end of the day, the public belief is that there was falsification and we need to get to the kernel of that and discover what caused it.

Assistant Commissioner O'Sullivan's report is not the final word on this. The Policing Authority's report is yet to come. Are there any other exercises in train or working on this? Are there other internal reports or examinations following on from Assistant Commissioner O'Sullivan's report or is it the case that we are just waiting on the report commissioned by the Policing Authority? It is the universality of this. If it was specific to a particular division, people might think that it could be explained in some other way. However, this was universal. Serving members of An Garda Síochána all over the country did not just wake up and decide to report inaccurate figures on breath tests. We need to know the facts as that is hugely important to the restoration of public confidence. That confidence is, in turn, hugely important to the relationship between An Garda Síochána and the people it is entrusted to serve, namely the Irish people and Irish society generally. Can the witnesses clarify the position having regard to other reports?

The acting Commissioner referred to 3,800 cases scheduled to be heard in the Circuit Court in 2017. Assistant Commissioner Finn also made reference to that. In terms of the practicalities, are they special sittings? What does that do and how does it impact on the already scheduled series of sittings which normally take place?

I refer also to PULSE and the report of Dr. Geoffrey Shannon on the exercise of functions under section 12 of the Child Care Act. While he paid tribute to all of those gardaí with whom he had worked and recognised that the highest standards were applied by individual members in the exercise of that power and authority, he was very critical of the systems in operation within An Garda Síochána. We must look at that. While we acknowledge the excellent disposition of individual gardaí, there has been a failure to address what is wrong with the system. The circumstances and whereabouts of 31 recorded children are completely unknown according to the particular focus Dr. Shannon took.

Has any exercise been carried out over the period since Dr. Shannon's report was presented to the Office of the Garda Commissioner? Has any exercise been undertaken to establish the current whereabouts of those 31 missing children? Has an updating exercise been undertaken on the PULSE system? Can the acting Commissioner add any additional information that might give us a sense that the importance of this report is fully appreciated and that the necessary attention is being devoted to implementing, in a speedy manner, the recommendations Dr. Shannon made? The acting Commissioner might respond.

Mr. Dónall Ó Cualáin

Yes, and I will call on my colleagues to focus on specific points the Chairman made. As I have stated a few times during the morning, public confidence is critical to what we do. It is a focus that we have to have. The work that has been carried out is ongoing. If the Chairman is asking about the additional work that is happening, Assistant Commissioner O'Sullivan looked for an additional piece of work to happen, that is, going out to the regions. That is what happening at the moment in continuation of Assistant Commissioner O'Sullivan's report.

In an external context, we have the Policing Authority and the Crowe Horwath report. That is what is happening in that space.

I will ask Assistant Commissioner O'Sullivan to clarify the matter regarding the estimation. It is not all in that barrow. There is also an inflation piece, which is referenced in his report. He might clarify that.

Mr. Michael O'Sullivan

From the analysis on the samplings we did and from listening to the telephone recordings, which gave us an insight into the issues, three factors are highlighted in my executive summary. The first is recording issues, the second is suspected breath test inflation and the third is estimation because that is what we heard; that is what the evidence told us.

Regarding the recording issues, they are significant. At one stage the discrepancy was 6.4 million, not 1.4 million. That 6.4 million was solely down to recording issues and recovered overnight. That goes to show the impact of the difficulties around how all of this data was recorded. In the midst of that is the suspected breath test inflation but those are the three issues that were highlighted from the in-depth analysis carried out by Dr. Singh's people and from what we heard on the recordings, which we have retained in the Garda information service centre, in Castlebar. That is by way of clarification.

I thank the assistant commissioner.

Mr. Dónall Ó Cualáin

I will ask Assistant Commissioner Finn to deal with the 3,800 cases.

Mr. Michael Finn

By way of additional information relating to the appeals, they are not all listed for the one sitting. They will be spread throughout the country over a two-week period. As I understand it, and it is subject to clarification from the courts, a Circuit Court judge will do two sittings each day. These will not be contested cases. We will not be objecting. We will be recommending that the appeals are allowed because we acknowledge that we are wrong. Based on the experience of the test cases we brought before the court, we do not believe it will take long for these matters to be dealt with on the basis of the fact that we are not objecting to them. We believe that scheduling the 3,800 across the country over that two-week period is doable, but I am in the hands of the courts in that regard. I want to acknowledge and thank them for the help and co-operation they gave us.

They are not necessarily special sittings.

Mr. Michael Finn

No. By and large, specific dates will be set aside. One judge will probably hear all of them across, say, a one-week period.

Mr. Dónall Ó Cualáin

Assistant Commissioner O'Driscoll will deal with the issue of Dr. Geoffrey Shannon and the 31 cases.

Mr. John O'Driscoll

The most important thing to say is that these children are not missing. The cases in question are included among those about which Dr. Shannon concluded that the overwhelming finding was that gardaí commit great effort to be sensitive and compassionate when they exercise section 12 powers. In all cases examined, the audit found appropriate restrained use of section 12.

What happened in regard to those 31 cases, and Dr. Geoffrey Shannon makes reference to the fact that he examined 500,000 PULSE records, when a member has a section 12 incident, they press a button relating to category, which says "Child Welfare - Tusla Notification". They then go on to incident type and choose from a menu including "Section 12, Child Care Act Invoked". In terms of "Role of Child", they choose "Tusla Notification Concerning". He got all those records. A discrepancy was found and 31 were not included there. That is because, at that point in the process, a number of members picked a multiple case option or whatever. That was because these incidents related to other incidents so 31 cases had gone into another category. He had full details of those 31. He included those in his overall examination and found that those 31 cases were also dealt with properly. We are happy that, this morning, Maeve Lucas, the executive director of One in Four, when speaking about the report published today, also said that from its experience the Garda Síochána shows consistency and deals with these cases in a professional manner.

On the extent to which we opened up PULSE to Dr. Shannon, he describes that there is no other equivalent report in the world and referred to the extent to which members engaged with him and were allowed to engage with him. It is important to point out that we first chose him to be the person to do the report. We are working through all the recommendations with him and ensuring that we implement them in a way that is satisfactory to him. I have all the recommendations here in an implementation plan. That implementation plan is examined at the overall strategy meeting I engage in with Tusla and we are ensuring that every one of those is being implemented. Obviously, some of them will take longer than others to implement. Above all, there is no child that he refers to who is missing.

I thank the assistant commissioner. On behalf of the committee, I thank acting Commissioner Ó Cualáin - or Assistant Commissioner Ó Cualáin or whatever designation Deputy Fitzpatrick wants to apply to him in the future - and his colleagues for their engagement with us and for their informative contributions. I have no doubt there will be some aspects that colleagues will not believe we have addressed satisfactorily but we have endeavoured to do our best as committee members. I also have no doubt that we will have an opportunity to speak at some point in time in the future.

I will suspend the meeting for one minute before going into private session. I appeal to members to stay with me as we need to get our housekeeping done.

The joint committee went into private session at 12.48 p.m. and adjourned at 1.05 p.m. until 9 a.m. on Wednesday, 11 October 2017.