I am delighted to have an opportunity to speak briefly on the motion and I thank Sinn Féin for bringing it forward. For many of our constituents’ confidence in An Garda Síochána, the revelations on the Garda MAT tests statistics prompted by the reports by David Labanyi in The Irish Times and the subsequent revelations on illegal convictions of 14,700 drivers were the last straws.
A general feeling among the public is that a change akin to the transformation of the RUC into the Police Service of Northern Ireland was also needed for our own police force, and that feeling has grown strongly over recent years. It is difficult to imagine such a transformation occurring under the current Garda management, many of whom were in mid-ranking to senior positions in An Garda Síochána during events which were the subject of the Fennelly commission, which we will discuss later, the O’Higgins commission and other reports and are currently being examined by the Charlton commission.
I welcome the forthcoming root and branch review promised by the Minister, which is badly needed.
I also echo the call for the recruitment of somebody like Ms Nuala O’Loan, the former Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland, to chair that review.
On Monday last, I attended the joint policing committee of the Dublin north central district, which covers much of the Garda DMR north division. Chief Superintendent Finbarr O’Brien and his colleagues, Superintendent Gerard Donnelly and Superintendent Joseph O’Connor, presented the DMR north policing plan for 2017 for public discussion. The fact that it has gone out for public discussion is a good innovation. The key goals of the plan include national and international security, confronting crime, roads policing, community engagement and organisational development and capacity improvement. The latter section included the promotion of the new Garda code of ethics – I thank the Minister and the Policing Authority for the fact that we have a copy of this code – and the improvement of data quality, including daily reconciliations of the CAD and PULSE systems. This plan and the committee’s reaction to it clearly reflected An Garda Síochána’s internal reform agenda and the public’s anxiety that this be advanced quickly, especially in the areas of visible and effective community policing and victim support and fast and modern record-keeping. Nobody can doubt the commitment and professionalism of the vast majority of front-line gardaí but the organisational and cultural changes required for the force as a great national organisation would be best advanced by a totally new leadership of An Garda Síochána.