Con­fi­dence in Gar­dai must be re­stored

Bray People - - DOWN THE YEARS -

AF­TER en­dur­ing a tor­rid time over the past weeks and months, made worse by Govern­ment mal­han­dling, the forces of law and or­der in the State are so punch drunk that it is a won­der they can con­tinue to func­tion. And the wave of un­wel­come con­tro­ver­sies is only part of the prob­lem faced by a force that has been de­pleted of staff and de­nied fa­cil­i­ties be a re­lent­less pro­gramme of cut­backs.

Over the past year the Gar­dai have been un­der a cloud of sus­pi­cion over the quash­ing of penalty points for friends, fam­ily and the well con­nected. De­spite de­nials and an in­ter­nal in­quiry that found ‘no prob­lem here' the is­sue stub­bornly re­fused to go away and ulit­mately led to the ‘jump or be pushed' early re­tire­ment of Com­mis­sioner Martin Cal­li­nan over his un­kind re­marks about whistle­blow­ers.

Po­lit­i­cal in­ep­ti­tude had seen the Cal­li­nan af­fair de­velop into a full blown cri­sis by the time of his res­ig­na­tion last Tues­day but even that was soon eclipsed by the rel­e­va­tions about phone tap­ing in Garda sta­tions.

Phone calls in and out of some Garda sta­tions have been recorded for over 30 years but Garda man­age­ment only be­came aware the prac­tice was widep­sread, and not con­fined to emer­gency calls, last Oc­to­ber. Biz­zarely Jus­tice Min­is­ter Alan Shat­ter only learned of the record­ings last Tues­day, he told the Dail.

The tap­ing of Garda sta­tion phone calls could lead to a raft of ap­peals against crim­i­nal con­vic­tions and car­ries very sig­nif­i­cant im­pli­ca­tions for the en­tire jus­tice sys­tem. It's an is­sue that will run for some con­sid­er­able time yet and, with this cloud hang­ing over them we can only won­der at the feel­ings of Gar­dai who worked hard to se­cure con­vic­tions and put crim­i­nals be­hind bars to now find that their work could be un­done.

Mean­while, lurk­ing in the back­ground, are the Garda Om­buds­man Com­mis­sion bug­ging al­le­ga­tions the find­ings that will emerge from the in­quiry that is look­ing into that dark af­fair.

It is with all this hang­ing over them that Gar­dai put on their uni­forms these morn­ings and go to work. They pa­trol our streets and coun­try­side in clapped out squad cars, driv­ing past closed down Garda sta­tions with ' for sale' signs nailed to the front door. One can only imag­ine that their morale is in the gut­ter.

For their sake and ours, ur­gent ac­tion must be taken to ad­dress this un­for­tu­nate sit­u­a­tion. It's no longer a case of restor­ing pub­lic con­fi­dence in the Gar­dai, it's about restor­ing Garda con­fi­dence in the Gar­dai.

In­stead of hold­ing a se­ries of sep­a­rate en­quiries it is now nec­es­sary to con­duct a com­pre­hen­sive re­view of Garda struc­tures and op­er­a­tions and where they are found want­ing they must be reme­died quickly.

How­ever, in light of re­cent events, there is cause for se­ri­ous doubt about whether Min­is­ter Alan Shat­ter is the right per­son to lead and im­ple­ment such re­forms. The Taoiseach needs to look at who can most ef­fec­tively do this vi­tal job be­cause, for the sake of the Gar­dai and the pub­lic, this bungling has to stop.

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