Belfast Telegraph

Leo Varadkar disappointed at GRA rejection of breath test scandal report

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said he is disappointed that rank and file gardai have rejected the findings of a report into the breath test scandal.

He said the position of the Garda Representative Association (GRA) reinforces that a change of attitude and culture within the force is needed.

The GRA - which represents 10,500 members - claimed the breath test scandal was "entirely" the fault of Garda management and warned they would not be "scapegoated".

However, Mr Varadkar criticised the GRA's refusal to accept the findings of the report into the scandal, conducted by Assistant Commissioner Michael O'Sullivan.

Speaking on RTE's Good Morning Ireland from a Fine Gael party Think In at Clonmel Mr Varadkar said he was "disappointed" to hear the GRA's response.

"It indicates (the GRA) doesn't accept the report. I am disappointed by that stance. It reflects the change of attitude and culture that is required. You can't change what you do until you start accepting that some things you did in the past are wrong," he said.

The report investigated the falsification of breath test figures and the wrongful conviction of 14,500 people for motoring offences.

It found that gardai exaggerated the number of breath tests carried out by 1.45 million over a seven-year period.

However the GRA claimed on Thursday that gardai were under duress from middle and senior management within An Garda Siochana to elevate figures, with the threat being that if they did not, there would be implications for their future in the force.

Mr Varadkar said: "If I was a rank and file member of the force trying to do my job every day ... I wouldn't be happy with what my representatives were saying about this."

The Fine Gael leader also said the resignation of Garda Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan was an opportunity for change and better management within the organisation.

He said this was not a condemnation of Mrs O'Sullivan or a blanket condemnation of gardai, but stressed that "better management is needed".

The Taoiseach said the pace of change within the force has not been adequate.

Referring to the country's housing crisis, Mr Varadkar said he expects a decision in the next couple of weeks about Nama playing a role in housing development.

He said the idea is under examination but a final decision has not been made.

Mr Varadkar said Nama would have an expertise in this area, and could play a part.

On Thursday he said the Government was "looking at the possibility of re-purposing Nama to develop lands on behalf of the state to step in where the private sector has failed."

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