Garda Síochána (Amendment) (No. 3) Bill 2014: Second Stage (Resumed)

Question again proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

The description last year by a Minister of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission, GSOC, as a toothless dog was in some way pitiful but none the less an apt analogy. Revelations over the past two years of Garda malpractice have done enormous damage, with many concluding that restrictions on investigations and limited manpower are resulting in investigations being passed on to the Garda Síochána, without oversight by GSOC.

Despite repeated assertions by Government that it wishes to enhance accountability within the Garda Síochána, an opportunity to move towards an organisation that has the power, leadership and manpower to carry out this task, has been or will be missed. I do not believe this Bill will achieve what many of us wished it to achieve. However, there are some merits in it which deserve to be noted, including the powers in regard to criminal investigations and to examine Garda practices, policies and procedures. I welcome the requirements regarding the timely supply of information to GSOC by An Garda Síochána. This has been a serious issue in the past. Last year, GSOC stated that it finds the failure by An Garda Síochána to release information unacceptable. It also stated that its inquiries are regularly frustrated by the refusal of officers to hand over documents. I understand that on one occasion GSOC was forced to wait 542 days for information. This is the type of scenario one would expect in a developing Third World country.

In the wake of last year's controversies, one of the key powers for which GSOC pleaded was the power to investigate not only Garda complaints but Garda culture. This Bill will not put an end to that culture. Some months ago, when two friends of mine, one of whom is an ex-garda, met with other ex-gardaí and currently serving gardaí in a hotel, all the latter wanted to talk about were derogatory remarks made by Deputies such as Deputy Mick Wallace and Deputy Clare Daly. They had no interest whatsoever in any independent authority investigating gardaí. In their view there is nothing wrong within the Garda Síochána. That culture, I believe, still persists.

Mandatory powers of investigation remain limited to a narrow range of cases involving death and serious harm. All other cases, for example, allegations of sexual offences or excessive use of force during Garda operations, may effectively be referred by gardaí to the Garda Commissioner for investigation. I may be naive but I thought the purpose of this Bill was to cease the practice of An Garda Síochána investigating serious disciplinary matters. I do not believe this will be acceptable to the public. It is certainly not acceptable to me. Why is GSOC not being given the authority and wherewithal to recruit independent investigators? Surely independent investigators would ensure impartiality. If my understanding of this Bill is correct, GSOC will not be permitted to do this. That is completely unacceptable.

I am also not satisfied that GSOC must obtain the consent of the Minister for Justice and Equality to investigate the Garda Commissioner. I am concerned that if GSOC believed investigation of a Garda Commissioner was warranted the Minister for Justice and Equality at the time would have the power to veto it. What would happen if that Minister refused to approve such an investigation? Will, as promised, the explanation for this refusal be full and frank? Crucially, and in the interests of transparency, will GSOC be allowed to publish that explanation? From my interpretation of this Bill that will not be the case. Where then is the openness and transparency? We are, in this Bill, again plámásing the Garda Commissioner and members of An Garda Síochána. As this comes to light over the coming years it will be unacceptable to the public.

There are a myriad of reasons why our policing force is in a mess. A culture of silence and a fear of speaking out is at the root of it. I accept it has been acknowledged by Ministers that this is a problem within An Garda Síochána. I was a little bewildered last July when the then Acting Garda Commissioner, Nóirín O'Sullivan, said that the policing service available to the public had not deteriorated as a result of Garda cuts in recent years. In what country is she living?

The new Garda Commissioner is on record as saying there has been no deterioration in services, but every Deputy and councillor knows that there has been. I am aghast that the Garda Commissioner believes there has not been. That is not such a good start. I know from what has happened in my home city, Waterford, that despite Trojan efforts by the Garda, the lack of personnel and money for overtime payments, not to mention the cuts in spending on Garda infrastructure, have had a terrible and detrimental effect-----

It is not customary to mention people outside the House by name. The reference to the Garda Commissioner makes the individual identifiable when he or she is not in the House to defend him or herself.

I have not mentioned anyone by name.

No, but the Deputy has identified a person.

Who? The Garda Commissioner.

Everyone knows who the Garda Commissioner is.

I am sorry, but that is standard procedure, of which I am asking the Deputy to be mindful.

That is ridiculous.

Yes, it is. I will have a legal check made.

The Deputy can have any legal check he likes made.

I am sorry, but it is not. It is a rule of the House that should always be respected by every Member.

Therefore, one cannot mention the President’s name in the House.

No, one is not supposed to mention the President in the House.

Therefore, one cannot mention anyone’s name?

A Deputy cannot mention the name of a person outside the House in a fashion that might be seen as a reflection on his or her character.

I will check it out. As I have mentioned her, there is nothing you or I can do about it.

Presumably, the comment has been withdrawn.

I am sorry, but the rules of the House-----

If the Deputy wants me to read the rules of the House, I will do so.

No; I did not make any allegation.

This has nothing to do with the Deputy at all. If he wishes to argue about the issue-----

I did not make any allegation about anybody outside the House.

I just happened to mention that the Garda Commissioner was on record as saying-----

The Deputy can refer to an institution other than a person by name who is not in the House and cannot respond. The same would apply to the Deputy if he were not a Member of the House and was mentioned in it in a fashion which might reflect on the way he did his job. He would need to be protected.

I made no criticism of the Garda Commissioner; I merely quoted something she had said.

Will the Deputy, please, continue and take note of what I said?

I will; thank you.

Lack of personnel and money for overtime payments, not to mention the cuts in spending on Garda infrastructure, have had a detrimental effect in Waterford, as they have had in many other areas. Last year a Private Members’ Bill in which I attempted to tackle the issue of restorative justice was rejected by the Government. In 2014 the Garda dealt with an increase in the number of burglaries and thefts across the division in Waterford. The city has seen the highest increase, with 638 reports of burglaries. At the same time, there are now just three community officers for the entire city who at any time could be sent to another unit. There was a promise in the programme for Government to have more gardaí working with communities. Now, however, we are at the stage where there might be only one community officer operating in Waterford city this year.

Gardaí are reporting a worrying increase in the use of heroin in the city, which is having a devastating effect on local communities, as well as contributing to the increase in the number of burglaries. At the same time, cuts in staffing have resulted in the number of drugs units in Waterford being reduced from two to one. There are a number of days in every shift cycle on which there are no drugs unit officers on duty, of which major players in the drug scene in Waterford are only too aware - so much for the fight against drugs. How is it acceptable, particularly when Ireland is recognised across Europe as having a serious problem with illegal drugs, that there are days in a major city on which no members of the drugs unit are available?

It is estimated that the Garda's IT systems alone need an upgrading investment of €40 million to bring them up to international standards. The ageing fleet of Garda vehicles has previously been described as a ticking timebomb. Last year’s Garda Inspectorate report showed that Garda sergeants and inspectors were so overburdened by administration work that they only got to spend 10% of their time working with their charges. This has been recognised for many years, but in spite of repeated requests from former Garda Commissioners and gardaí to bring the IT systems to international standards, it has still not happened and I have not heard of any major investment that will be made for several years. Even if there was some moderate investment, it would certainly fall short of the €40 million required. I am sure Garda representatives have made this point to the Department. Gardaí in my constituency have told me that an upgrade is badly needed.

Senior gardaí and the Commissioner are prepared to deny that the effects are being felt in communities, presumably out of fear of a political reprimand. If we are to have transparency in the policing system, we need complete disclosure about the challenges facing the force, without fear of damage to senior officers’ career prospects. How else will we foster a culture of speaking out? Some very good gardaí work tirelessly on behalf of the public and do their best under extraordinary and difficult circumstances. They will maintain, however, that there is still a fear of speaking out. There is still that culture and it would be naive of Members to think it is not the case. Elements of the Bill will not do anything to change this.

It is one matter to bring forwards legislation, but it is quite another to give people renewed confidence in the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission, GSOC. In the light of recent controversies, the general public is already sceptical, to say the least, that GSOC will ever adequately address the issue of accountability in the Garda. Further clarifications or amendments are required to the legislation if the Minister is serious about convincing people that the Bill will address An Garda Síochána’s deficiencies, as well as ensuring a level of professionalism and transparency in the force. All Members want to see a competent, cohesive and top-class Garda force. It is not easy for Opposition Members to criticise the Garda, particularly when criminal elements are only too delighted to see this happen. However, if there is something wrong within the force, it must be acknowledged. It has been acknowledged by many Members for several years that there are serious deficiencies in the Garda. We are at a stage where crime levels are dramatically on the increase, particularly the sale of illegal drugs and cigarettes and gang crime. It is not that the Garda needs the community to come to the fore in order to help it. Many in the community want to do this. However, to work with any organisation in the State, one must have trust in it. All of the controversies in recent years have in some way damaged that trust in the Garda. Will the Minister re-examine the Bill and some of the points made by Members on the Opposition Benches? We have done so for the betterment of the legislation and the Garda which should have nothing to fear in having to be held accountable.

All of us as legislators are accountable for everything we do and rightly so. We all know that in many situations the gardaí are the last resort for many people who suffer as a result of anti-social behaviour, if some criminal damage has been done, if they have been abused etc. The gardaí need to have the people's trust. Unfortunately, not enough effort or thought has been put into this Bill to deal with accountability.

We are coming to the end of a very difficult time for the policing authorities in this country, namely An Garda Síochána and the Garda Síochana Ombudsman Commission, GSOC. The last two years have been full of controversies relating to penalty points and the relationship between the gardaí and the commission, which got so strained at one point that it led to public hostility between both organisations. There were allegations of cover-ups and of investigations not being properly investigated by the gardaí. There was the resignation of the Garda Commissioner and the Minister for Justice and Equality. Just this month we see that one of the GSOC commissioners is leaving his post to take up another post in the UK.

During that time, one of the things which GSOC was involved in and to which this Bill relates was the allegation that the office was subject to bugging. The idea that someone was bugging the independent ombudsman of An Garda Síochána created a national furore and was on the front page of many newspapers. It led to several hearings in this House in which I took part. There was much media and public commentary and concern about the implied suggestion that the gardaí were bugging the GSOC offices.

At the time, I remember looking at some of the information and questioning the then commissioners as to the exact nature of what was happening. They were very concerned about information which was critical and crucial to their role being printed in public newspapers. It turned out a long time later that what we actually had was information making its way out by other means. The bugging, when looked at by retired Mr. Justice Cooke, had not actually taken place or there was no evidence of it whatsoever. This showed us that in GSOC, like in any organisation, things can go wrong. No organisation is infallible. In that instance, GSOC did not stand up to the highest ideals that we would like it to. It fell short and created somewhat of a national furore when none was necessary.

The internal report which dealt with bugging was considered extremely confidential within GSOC. Yet that report managed to get out into the public domain. GSOC therefore still has some questions to answer about its ability to control and maintain secrecy and privacy over information which is extremely sensitive. If we want people to feel free to speak up and to go to GSOC and to give information about alleged malpractice in the Garda Síochána and so forth, the knowledge that there may be someone within GSOC who is letting that information out or that GSOC cannot control that information is extremely serious. We would want to be sure that this issue is being dealt with.

Some of the things the Government is doing to deal with the issues in policing are extremely important. The new Garda authority that is being established will revolutionise where we are going in terms of civilian and public oversight of our Garda Síochána force. There has been much criticism that until now we had simply a two-way relationship between the Garda Commissioner and the Minister for Justice and Equality, that in that relationship one could become almost too close, that relationships could develop that would prevent proper accountability and that this would lead to a situation whereby the ability to keep an objective distance would be compromised.

I am delighted to see that Josephine Feehily has been appointed to the Garda authority. I have had some experience dealing with her as chairperson of the Revenue Commissioners in the Committee on Public Accounts. She is an extremely capable and able person. I have no doubt that she will bring those skills and more to her position in the Garda authority.

Some of the powers that are being given to GSOC will give a new added impetus to its function and will give it the power to be a bit more aggressive in some areas. The power provided for in the Bill that allows GSOC to initiate investigations off its own bat, without having to require someone to come in with a complaint or an official external source to start the investigation, is something that is particularly welcome.

The ability of GSOC to expand its role to that of almost a monitoring body and to decide when it can and cannot investigate is a particularly good change. There was a perception that the Garda Commissioner, by virtue of the Act and the Commissioner's relationship with GSOC, was somehow beyond reproach. We cannot have that. If what we are trying to do is to establish a new public confidence in the policing structures, we cannot have the head of the Garda being perceived as someone who is not to be investigated, not to be held to account and not to be subject to the same investigations and accountability mechanisms as other members of the force. The way the Bill expands this role and allows the Garda Commissioner to be subject to a GSOC investigation, albeit with the consent of the Minister for Justice and Equality, is an important step and one that will stand to the governing structure in the future.

I also welcome the logical extension of the deadline for complaints from six months to 12 months. This makes sense and will allow people to feel comfortable with what they do and to take the necessary time. Everyone is not always of the one view about if or when they should begin such processes. Giving that extra time makes it simpler, clearer and better for everyone. I also wish to welcome the granting of powers to GSOC to intercept communications, post and so forth. These are powers which are open to the gardaí when they are investigating criminal investigations. It is something which will benefit GSOC given the time limits on it.

I understood that I had five minutes, but the Chair is being very generous with the time.

I should have mentioned that the Deputy has 20 minutes and he can stop whenever he likes. He has 13 minutes remaining.

I may just simply say, because the main points I had were prepared, that sometimes we take for granted some of what functions so properly in this country - that we have a Parliament that meets, a Judiciary that is independent and a policing body that works and maintains the rule of law. These things are very fragile. We take them for granted because we are, in fact, one of the oldest functioning democracies in Europe and around the world. These extremely important functions are goals for which other countries have strived and are incapable of getting on a firm footing. Take the idea that the Garda will investigate a Minister or a Deputy and that Deputies are afraid, and rightly so, and do not feel comfortable or competent to interfere in a Garda investigation. Under no circumstances would I feel it in any way possible to telephone a judge to try to interfere in a case.

These are basic aspects of the rule of law for which countries strive and which can take a very long time to build up. We should never get complacent. If we have been analysed and found to have flaws - which have been clearly found in our relationship between the Executive, in this instance the Minister for Justice and Equality, and the policing authority - and we can improve on this and keep that accountability, then we must do so. We can never become complacent or take for granted that which other countries have simply failed to attain or are incapable of having and which history has shown us can be torn down much more quickly than can ever be built up. I therefore welcome this Bill as one element of the infrastructure which will do that, in tandem with the Garda authority which will get up and running. We will be in a much better place as a result.

A person just needs to talk to gardaí to see the bruising of morale that has happened in the Garda Síochána. This is not, to be honest, due simply to the scandal. It is also due to the level of resources over the last number of years and the difficulties gardaí have been facing in terms of their wages, their working hours and the fact that they cannot get a car so that they can do their job. This Bill puts in place a very robust platform on which we can build to get back to a properly working police force with the necessary morale, resources and accountability to ensure it is effective, trusted and always seen as an important and reliable part of the community.

I am grateful for the opportunity to speak on yet another Garda Bill and to express a familiar story of disappointment that the Government has once again not just failed, but refused, to reform An Garda Síochána in any radical manner.

I suppose it is no coincidence that I and other Independent Deputies, in particular Deputies Wallace and Daly, have been hammering away at this problem for a long time. Indeed, we have brought it successfully to public awareness and we have achieved a great deal in the sense that many of those who were responsible for the debacle represented by the Garda and the Department of Justice and Equality are no longer in their positions. The response of the Government was to throw bodies into the river. This may have political advantages but we had expected a radical reform of these areas, which are so politically sensitive that they should be taken out of the political arena. It seems that the opposite has been the case in the Government's response to the crisis in the Garda and the difficulties in the Judiciary. Successive governments have acted irresponsibly in addressing these fragile issues, which are so sensitive that the public is beginning to lose confidence not only in the Judiciary or the semi-State bodies, in respect of which it lost confidence many years ago, but also in those entrusted with keeping and enforcing law and order impartially.

I would have thought that a reforming government of Fine Gael and the Labour Party or anyone else would have seen the opportunities that have arisen from the debacle represented by the Garda Síochána to take the axe to the force and clean it up. However, that is not what has happened. Instead, we have seen the same response that we always see from this Government when it finds disasters and hand-grenades inherent in these institutions. The Government seeks to solve the problems that have exploded but all it brings to the issues are little bits of sticking plaster.

The first criteria or demand of a Bill of this nature, which attacks the Judiciary and other areas where the Government has such powers of patronage, should be to ensure that the word "Minister" never appears in the Bill at all. That should be the first demand if the Government is really interested in reform, because the root problem of the matters I have addressed is the fact that successive Ministers have had almost ultimate power within the Garda, the Judiciary and semi-State organisations.

Another common theme is that all Ministers have in effect abused that power. Therefore, to see provision in this Bill to the effect that the Minister for Justice and Equality - this is no reflection on any particular individual, it is a reflection on the ability and capacity for abuse down the road - has the power to veto an investigation by the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission into the Garda Commissioner or any future Commissioner is totally unacceptable. Why is that necessary? Why should a Minister be allowed to obstruct an investigation into a Commissioner? The only reason I can think of is the need for that good old tradition of political favouritism and political interference. That clause in the Bill is an abomination. It is symptomatic of the fact that this Government, for reasons known only to itself, is incapable of releasing the power of patronage, the power to make appointments to the Garda, the administration of the Garda and the power to protect people in high places. These should be taken completely out of the political arena but this has not been done.

I believe there are good intentions and that the current Minister for Justice and Equality has good intentions and has intended to make some sort of break with the past. However, we have seen in the case not only of this Bill but in other Bills of this sort an approach so piecemeal and cosmetic that the abuses will continue.

I am afraid this has been a characteristic of the Government in the area of patronage. I am not only referring to appointments to Seanad Éireann but to the guidelines issued by the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform early in November. He made some gestures in the light of a rather scandalous attempt to appoint someone to the Seanad that could not be justified. The Minister stated that the guidelines included new procedures for appointments to semi-State bodies, but they are not really worth the paper they are written on because ultimately any appointment can be either vetoed or made by the Minister.

As everyone knows, the same applies to the Judiciary. The Judicial Appointments Advisory Board is stuffed with political appointees in case anyone has failed to remember. The board makes recommendations to the Minister, who can either listen to them or not. A wonderful old fig-leaf is in place to protect whoever the Minister making the appointments happens to be. If he does not get those he wants, that is, people who normally have had identifiable political affiliations in the past, then he can appoint one of his chums to the Bench in any event.

This trend or disease is noticeable in the appointments to inquiries or investigations in areas like the Garda and elsewhere. Why, in the name of God, do we always fall back on a member of the Judiciary or a retired member? These people, many of whom are honourable and of great integrity, have all been political appointees. They have all gone through the same diseased process that top gardaí have to go through. This means extraordinarily embedded establishment people appointed by a Minister for justice are called on to investigate people who have also been appointed by a Minister for justice. What conclusions can we expect them to reach? We cannot blame them, but they are so embedded in the system and so compromised by their initial appointments that they are not of necessity from the pool to which the Government should go when seeking someone to carry out an independent investigation of extraordinary political sensitivities.

The whole business of politicians with various agendas being able to appoint to positions people who are sympathetic to their political points of view should end now. Those in the Government had an opportunity to act when this shambles represented by the Garda - it is in danger of threatening the Judiciary as well - broke out. The Government had the opportunity to take a radical step and by deciding not to involve itself in the kind of activity I have outlined. It did do one or two things but it promised a good deal more. For example, yet again we have been waiting four years for something on judicial appointments to materialise. We will wait and see what happens. In the meantime I can predict that any Bill in this whole area will ensure the last word comes from the Minister. Nothing will be done without ministerial approval or appointment.

What will be called an independent Garda authority will be set up shortly.

Who will make the appointments to that authority? I do not know but I suspect that it will be the Minister. We have already got a chairperson for the authority. What process was implemented in that regard? Did we have a long process of advertising and interviews for this, the most sensitive post in the history of the State? No, we did not. We had a bit of advertising, we may even have had a few interviews but then we had a parachute and lo and behold, landing there in the plum position of chairman of the authority was the person who had been chair of the Revenue Commissioners. I am not saying for one second that she is a bad person. I happen to think that she was a particularly good chair of the Revenue Commissioners. I have come across her time and again at the Committee of Public Accounts and her competence, ability and integrity are undoubted but her suitability for the position of chairman of the new independent Garda authority is questionable to say the least. At the very least, there should have been a public process so that we could have confidence that the person appointed was impartial, independent and well-versed in Garda matters, which must be open to challenge. The problem is that the parachute was provided by the Minister. That is the problem and will continue to be the problem. The other members of the Garda authority will also be appointed by the Minister. There will be a process but at the end of the day, these will be political appointments. There is very little doubt that whatever cosmetic umbrella or structure is put in place to recommend three or four people, as long as the ultimate decision and the ultimate veto rests with the Minister, appointments to the top of An Garda Síochána will be flawed and confidence in the Garda Síochána will be tainted.

I am sure the Minister knows - and I have heard of no plans to change it - the staggering fact that the top 200 appointments in the Garda Síochána are political. I asked a question about that recently, either of the Garda press office or the Department, I cannot recall which. It took a long time for them to respond to that because, I presume, they did not want to. The top 200 positions are political appointments. Why on earth does this Government not say, "We are going to make a clean break with the abuses of the past. We are not going to have Cabinet Ministers interfering in appointments in the Garda"? If one talks to members of An Garda Síochána one will hear them say that they have to be on the right side of the political divide to get promotion. It is not always the case but it is an advantage. That is what still exists in An Garda Síochána today. I see no sign that this Government has any intention of reforming that because all Governments want control of the Garda. I can understand those who say that it is necessary for a Government to have good relations with An Garda Síochána and an overlap in certain areas where the security of the State or of individuals is paramount or is in danger. That is fine, but there is a huge difference between that and political control, political favouritism and protecting those who are in positions of power. What ought to be done here is the introduction of a totally new system which removes the Government, and Ministers in particular, from the picture. I am not referring to any Minister in the current Government when I say that there have been cases of very obvious and indefensible abuses by Ministers for Justice in this country. Those Ministers had powers which they abused, for which they were not accountable at the time. We must not put Governments or Ministers in the way of temptation, which some have seemed unable to resist.

On behalf of the Minister for Justice and Equality, who unfortunately cannot be present, I thank all of the Deputies who have contributed to this debate. The Minister is pleased that the Bill before us has attracted a significant degree of consensus, particularly regarding its key provisions which provide for the expansion of the remit and powers of both GSOC and the Garda Síochána Inspectorate. The Minister is grateful to Deputies for their support for these aspects of the Bill and hopes, given the level of consensus that has been demonstrated, that it will be possible to enact this Bill quickly.

As the Minister outlined in her opening contribution, this Bill is one of a series of measures being taken by the Government as part of a comprehensive programme of justice reform which will substantially strengthen Garda accountability. This reform programme is being informed to a substantial extent by the excellent work undertaken by the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality. In line with the recommendation of that committee, for example, section 11 of the Bill will allow the Garda Inspectorate to conduct, on its own initiative, inspections or inquiries relating to particular aspects of the operation and administration of An Garda Síochána. At present the inspectorate can only do so with the prior consent of the Minister.

I wish to inform Deputies that this Bill is not, and was never intended to be, the only or primary legislative response of this Government to the relevant work of the aforementioned Oireachtas committee. Deputies will be aware that the Minister has published the scheme of a Bill for the proposed new policing authority which takes into account a significant number of the recommendations made by the joint committee. The Bill is being drafted on a priority basis and the scheme has been considered by the joint committee in the course of pre-legislative scrutiny. The Minister is looking forward to publishing the Bill and bringing it before the Oireachtas as soon as possible. In addition, the Government has approved the nomination of Ms Josephine Feehily as the chairperson designate for the policing authority and she participated in the selection process for the appointment of the Garda Commissioner, Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan by the Government, following an open and competitive competition organised by the Public Appointments Service. Ms Feehily will be involved in the arrangements for the establishment of the authority.

Overall, the recommendations made by the joint committee are being examined in the context of the Government's reform programme. Deputies will be familiar with the fact that on 19 December 2014, in accordance with the Commissions of Investigation Act 2004, the Minister laid before this House a draft of the order, which includes the terms of reference, proposing the establishment of a commission of investigation to address the recommendations of Mr. Seán Guerin, senior counsel, in his report on allegations made in respect of certain Garda matters. The Minister also made a statement outlining the reasons for the establishment of the commission. All of the matters recommended by Mr. Guerin for inclusion in a commission of investigation are included in the terms of reference. A resolution approving the draft order is required to be passed by each House of the Oireachtas. The relevant resolution has been tabled for discussion and approval by this House on 28 January. This will provide an opportunity for Deputies to debate the matter. Subject to approval by the Houses, the Government will then take the order establishing the commission.

In the course of the debate on this Bill, Deputies referred to the independent review by a panel of counsel about allegations of Garda misconduct or inadequacies in the investigation of cases. The Minister previously outlined that the role of the independent review is, effectively, to assess those cases with a view to determining to what extent, and in what manner, further action may be required. Where counsel recommend further investigations, the Minister will be very strongly guided by that advice. Clearly there are a number of possible options for further investigations, in particular by way of referral to GSOC.

Any recommendation for a referral of a case to a commission of investigation will be very carefully considered, including whether this could be achieved by way of amending the terms of reference of an existing commission or the establishment of a separate commission.

Reference was made to a number of specific topics, including the significant contribution to policing made by the Garda Reserve. The Minister is very much aware of the excellent work undertaken by members of the reserve. In terms of overall Garda recruitment, reserve members are provided with an opportunity under the Garda admission and appointment regulations to demonstrate the experience they have acquired as reserves. This takes place during the interview process managed by the Public Appointments Service and enables reserve members to highlight their skills. In that regard, it is significant to note that of the 100 Garda recruits who entered the Garda College in September last year, 23 were members of the Garda Reserve. As Deputies will be aware, this was the first intake of Garda recruits since 2009 and it was followed by an intake of a further 100 new recruits in December last which also included former Garda Reserve members. An additional intake of 100 recruits is due to enter training at the end of this month, bringing to 300 the number of recruits in the Garda College since last September. This development is a measure of the Government's commitment to the Garda Síochána.

The first intake of recruits will attest as members of the Garda Síochána in May 2015 and will be assigned to Garda stations by the Garda Commissioner. It is a key objective of the Garda Commissioner to allocate all the resources at her disposal in a manner which maximises their impact on the protection of members of the public and prevention and detection of crime. In that context, Garda management keeps under continuing review developments in respect of security assessments, crime trends and policing priorities to ensure the best possible use is made of resources.

The operation of Garda rosters was also raised. The new Garda roster was introduced on a pilot basis in April 2012 after negotiation and agreement by Garda management and staff associations. It was developed in compliance with the European working time directive to better match the supply of and demand for resources and took on board best practice from a welfare perspective. The pilot period was extended under the Haddington Road agreement to June 2014 and has been further extended by agreement. As is the case with this pilot, the practical application of the complex systems involved has identified where changes may be required. The purpose of the current review is to identify and implement any necessary changes and this process is being actively pursued.

A number of Deputies also referred to providing the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission with access to the Garda PULSE system. In that regard, GSOC has confirmed to the Department that it is satisfied with the level of access to PULSE being provided. In addition, section 9 contains a provision that will underpin any requirement on the Garda Commissioner to provide information to the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission. The section, which inserts a new section 103A into the Garda Síochána Act 2005, places a statutory obligation on the Commissioner to provide GSOC, as soon as practicable, with information the commission requires for the purposes of carrying out its functions. Deputies may also be aware that an additional €1 million in funding has been made available to GSOC in 2015 to resource the organisation's activities this year. Arrangements have been put in place for a recruitment campaign for additional staff. The issues of efficiency and resources are being kept under continuing review by the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission.

A short technical amendment is required to section 8 and the Minister intends to introduce such an amendment on Committee State. On behalf of the Minister, I express my gratitude to Deputies who have expressed support for the Bill. The Minister looks forward to its early enactment.

Question put: The Dáil divided: Tá, 85; Níl, 15.TáNílBannon, James.
The Dáil divided: Tá, 85; Níl, 15.

  • Bannon, James.
  • Breen, Pat.
  • Butler, Ray.
  • Byrne, Eric.
  • Calleary, Dara.
  • Cannon, Ciarán.
  • Carey, Joe.
  • Coffey, Paudie.
  • Collins, Áine.
  • Colreavy, Michael.
  • Conaghan, Michael.
  • Conlan, Seán.
  • Connaughton, Paul J.
  • Conway, Ciara.
  • Coonan, Noel.
  • Corcoran Kennedy, Marcella.
  • Costello, Joe.
  • Creed, Michael.
  • Crowe, Seán.
  • Daly, Jim.
  • Deasy, John.
  • Deering, Pat.
  • Doherty, Regina.
  • Donohoe, Paschal.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • Ellis, Dessie.
  • English, Damien.
  • Farrell, Alan.
  • Feighan, Frank.
  • Ferris, Anne.
  • Fitzmaurice, Michael.
  • Fitzpatrick, Peter.
  • Flanagan, Charles.
  • Flanagan, Terence.
  • Griffin, Brendan.
  • Harrington, Noel.
  • Heydon, Martin.
  • Howlin, Brendan.
  • Humphreys, Heather.
  • Keating, Derek.
  • Keaveney, Colm.
  • Kehoe, Paul.
  • Kenny, Seán.
  • Kyne, Seán.
  • Lyons, John.
  • McCarthy, Michael.
  • McDonald, Mary Lou.
  • McEntee, Helen.
  • McFadden, Gabrielle.
  • McGinley, Dinny.
  • McHugh, Joe.
  • McLellan, Sandra.
  • McLoughlin, Tony.
  • Maloney, Eamonn.
  • Mitchell, Olivia.
  • Mitchell O'Connor, Mary.
  • Moynihan, Michael.
  • Mulherin, Michelle.
  • Murphy, Dara.
  • Neville, Dan.
  • Nolan, Derek.
  • Ó Cuív, Éamon.
  • Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.
  • Ó Ríordáin, Aodhán.
  • Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
  • O'Brien, Jonathan.
  • O'Dowd, Fergus.
  • O'Mahony, John.
  • O'Reilly, Joe.
  • Penrose, Willie.
  • Perry, John.
  • Rabbitte, Pat.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Sherlock, Sean.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Stagg, Emmet.
  • Stanley, Brian.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Timmins, Billy.
  • Tóibín, Peadar.
  • Troy, Robert.
  • Twomey, Liam.
  • Varadkar, Leo.
  • Wall, Jack.
  • Walsh, Brian.

Níl

  • Boyd Barrett, Richard.
  • Collins, Joan.
  • Coppinger, Ruth.
  • Daly, Clare.
  • Halligan, John.
  • Healy, Seamus.
  • McGrath, Finian.
  • Mathews, Peter.
  • Murphy, Catherine.
  • Murphy, Paul.
  • O'Sullivan, Maureen.
  • Pringle, Thomas.
  • Ross, Shane.
  • Shortall, Róisín.
  • Wallace, Mick.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Emmet Stagg and John Lyons; Níl, Deputies Clare Daly and Mick Wallace.
Question declared carried.