Indifference to Garda corruption

Plans to debate in the Dáil the Barr tribunal report into the Garda killing of John Carthy has been deferred. The report, which was issued in July during the Dáil recess, will now not be debated until 2007 and the chances are it will not be debated at all during the lifetime of the current Dáil. And then the chances are it will never be debated.


So too with the three reports of the Morris tribunal into Garda misconduct in Donegal. They were issued during the summer recess, there are no plans to have them debated and the likelihood is they will never be debated.

The first report of the Morris tribunal was published in July 2004. It contained the most devastating critique of our police force. It said the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, which has direct responsibility for the overall management of An Garda Síochána, was "utterly isolated from Garda headquarters". It said: "It was the absence of structured command, coupled with utterly defective local management, that led to the situation in Donegal" – in other words the problem was with the headquarters' management of the force, as well as with local management.

Communing on a series of extraordinary explosives and firearms finds in Donegal (all of which were bogus, the explosives and firearms having been planted by gardaí), one of which led to a letter of congratulations from the security minister in the Northern Ireland Office, it said: "Garda headquarters never raised a query as to how the investigation [into the 'finds'] was proceeding."

It said: "Regrettably, the tribunal has sat through a year of evidence and read thousands of documents and, as a result, has come to the conclusion that An Garda Síochána is losing its character as a disciplined force... Ultimately, the gradual erosion of discipline within An Garda Síochána is a developing situation that will, sooner or later, lead to disaster."

The tribunal went on to make several recommendations about the enforcement of discipline within An Garda Síochána.

This first report was published during the Dáil recess in 2004. On the resumption of Dáil sittings that autumn, there was no debate on the report, no statements, nothing. Working groups were established within An Garda Síochána to look at the recommendations. Otherwise, nothing.

And nothing at all done about the recommendations about discipline until four reports later. With the third, fourth and fifth reports of the Morris tribunal, Michael McDowell, anticipating a furore this time over the neglect of the recommendations of the previous reports, made an announcement on changes of Garda disciplines to coincide with publication of the reports.

So glaring was the indifference shown to the revelations and recommendations of the first report that the second report, published in May 2005 repeated, word for word, all the recommendations of the first report.

Following the publication of the second report which dealt with the investigation into the death of the Donegal cattle dealer, Richie Barron, there were "statements" in the Dáil on the two reports on 17 June 2007. The statements began at 10.30am and concluded just over four hours later at 2.35pm. And that was that.

Now, with four other reports piled up to be debated – the Barr report and three recent Morris reports – no plans for any debate and no plans by the Oireachtas justice committee to have even a session on the reports.

These matters deal with the most vital issues affecting our state: the conduct of our police force. It has emerged clearly in the last several years that there is a culture of indiscipline and corruption within the force that, in the word of Freddie Morris, chairman of the tribunal that bears his name, will lead to "disaster" if nothing is done about it.

Marginal reforms have been made to An Garda Síochána in the last several years but nothing of a fundamental kind that is demanded by the revelations that have occurred. No party has made this a priority, it is likely to feature hardly at all in the election debate and the media for the most part is equally indifferent.

Vincent Browne