BREN­DAN O’CON­NOR

Is si­lenc­ing Ge­orge Hook re­ally the best an­swer?

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - - Front Page - Philip Ryan and Lar­risa Nolan

MIN­IS­TER for Jus­tice Char­lie Flana­gan is fu­ri­ous with the in­ter­ven­tion by the Garda Rep­re­sen­ta­tive As­so­ci­a­tion (GRA) on the fake breathal­yser test scan­dal.

Mr Flana­gan has pub­licly said he was “sur­prised” by the GRA’s de­ci­sion to claim none of their mem­bers fal­si­fied road­side breath tests but rather were told to “el­e­vate” fig­ures by se­nior of­fi­cers.

Pri­vately Mr Flana­gan is un­der­stood to have told min­is­te­rial col­leagues he is “fu­ri­ous” with the garda rep­re­sen­ta­tive body and plans to vent his anger with the as­so­ci­a­tion in the com­ing weeks.

“Char­lie said in an in­ter­view he was sur­prised by the GRA re­marks, but pri­vately he was fu­ri­ous with their at­tempt to re­move blame from their mem­bers,” a Cab­i­net min­is­ter said.

In an in­ter­view with the Sun­day In­de­pen­dent last week­end, Mr Flana­gan said there should be “zero tol­er­ance” shown to gar­dai of all ranks in­volved in fak­ing breath tests.

Mean­while, Taoiseach Leo Varad­kar said he was “dis­ap­pointed” with GRA spokesman John O’Ke­effe’s com­ments, as it sug­gested the body did not ac­cept the Garda re­port on the fal­si­fied breathal­yser tests.

The Taoiseach also in­sisted those in­volved in fak­ing the tests should be held to ac­count for their ac­tions, no mat­ter what rank they hold in the force.

Fianna Fail is set to clash with the Gov­ern­ment over its de­mands to dis­ci­pline gar­dai in­volved in the scan­dal.

Fianna Fail’s jus­tice spokesman Jim O’Cal­laghan told the Sun­day In­de­pen­dent it is “highly un­likely” any gar­dai will be sanc­tioned over the tests, due to the sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of of­fi­cers in­volved.

“The in­fla­tion of breath tests was so preva­lent through­out the force that it can and should be viewed as be­ing a prac­tice, rather than em­a­nat­ing from iso­lated in­ci­dents,” Mr O’Cal­laghan said.

“If in­di­vid­ual gar­dai are to be dis­ci­plined then it will re­quire a full re­view of all 523,000 road­side check­points and the taped record­ings of in­for­ma­tion com­mu­ni­cated by gar­dai to the Garda in­for­ma­tion ser­vices cen­tre af­ter each of those check­points,” he added. He said it would be “im­plau­si­ble” to re­view ev­ery sin­gle check­point record­ing, which would “take years and enor­mous re­sources”.

“It is for that rea­son that it was im­por­tant to have ac­count­abil­ity and re­spon­si­bil­ity for these fail­ings ac­knowl­edged and ac­cepted by Garda se­nior man­age­ment,” he added.

Mean­while, the GRA has made an of­fi­cial com­plaint to RTE, say­ing its in­ter­view about the breath test fi­asco “makes a mock­ery” of the as­so­ci­a­tion. The GRA lodged the com­plaint to the na­tional broad­caster yes­ter­day, a day af­ter an in­ter­view was aired in­volv­ing RTE crime cor­re­spon­dent Paul Reynolds and GRA’s John O’Ke­effe.

The let­ter, signed off by GRA Gen­eral Sec­re­tary Pat En­nis, states that it was de­signed to ridicule the as­so­ci­a­tion. The ex­change was a fol­low-up to a state­ment by the as­so­ci­a­tion, in which it said it would not be scape­goated for the scan­dal sur­round­ing al­most 1.5 mil­lion fake breath tests, and in­stead pointed the fin­ger at Garda man­age­ment.

The ex­tra­or­di­nary record­ing — in which Mr O’Ke­effe re­peat­edly stated that rankand-file gar­dai did not fal­sify fig­ures and were told to el­e­vate them by mid­dle and se­nior man­age­ment — was shown in full on the Six One News and sub­se­quently across RTE plat­forms. It went vi­ral on so­cial me­dia.

The let­ter of com­plaint is di­rected at Reynolds and the news ed­i­tor of the Six One News and re­lated plat­forms.

Separately, Mr O’Ke­effe has threat­ened to sue RTE over the in­ter­view, say­ing there was an un­der­stand­ing his an­swers would be edited or deleted be­fore broad­cast.

An RTE spokesper­son said: “I can con­firm we have re­ceived cor­re­spon­dence from the GRA and are cur­rently clar­i­fy­ing it with them.

“RTE stands by the in­ter­view and its sub­se­quent broad­cast on air and on­line”.

“There are no plans to re­move the in­ter­view.”

UN­HAPPY: Char­lie Flana­gan

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