Simon Coveney insists Government serious about Garda reform
He said any suggestion the Government was not determined to overhaul Garda practices was ‘absolute nonsense’.
The Tanaiste has insisted the Government is serious about Garda reform as he rejected claims of inaction on the misrecorded homicides controversy.
Simon Coveney said he was “extremely concerned” about the explosive allegations levelled this week by two Garda analysts who claimed they were belittled and ignored by senior officers when they tried to highlight significant errors in
the force’s data recording systems.
The mistakes around the recording of domestic crimes has prompted concern that future threats posed by suspected perpetrators were not properly flagged.
The testimony offered by analysts Laura Galligan and Lois West to the Justice Committee dominated leader’s questions in the Dail on Thursday.
Mr Coveney said the Government was not in a position to offer a “comprehensive response” to the claims as it was only 24 hours since they had been aired.
But he said that did not mean ministers, in particular Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan, were not committed to getting to the bottom of the furore.
He said any suggestion that the Government was not determined to overhaul Garda practices was “absolute nonsense”.
“I want to thank the two women concerned for the courage they have shown to raise these issues publicly yesterday and I want to give them and give everybody else an assurance that the Government is going to take that testimony very seriously
in terms of how we follow up on it,” he said.
“And I want to reassure anybody who feels that they need or want to come forward and expose wrongdoing and inappropriate behaviour or intimidation or bullying in An Garda Siochana, or indeed any other arm of the state, to come forward and
do that and be reassured that the Government will take that seriously and will act on the evidence that they get while working with whistleblowers and others who are brave enough to come forward.”
Fianna Fail TD Michael McGrath claimed the women faced 15 months of torment as a result of raising their concerns.
“Their reward for telling the truth was to have their integrity and professionalism attacked,” he said.
Independents 4 Change TD Clare Daly accused senior Garda of lying to their oversight body, the Policing Authority, about the extent of the problem.
She also accused the authority of not taking the concerns of the two women seriously when alerted to them. Ms Daly claimed the oversight body instead reported the claims back to the Garda.
“The Police Authority knew there were problems but not only did they not respond to them but they went back to the bosses and ratted them out,” she said.
She challenged Mr Coveney in blunt terms.
“Do you think it is right to lie, bully and isolate people? If you don’t, who are you going to call to account?” she asked.
The TD added: “These women don’t want a pat on the head, they don’t want to be told how brave they are – they want things to change.”
Mr Coveney replied: “Clearly the Government doesn’t think it is okay to lie, bully and intimidate people in any walk of life in Ireland and particularly An Garda Siochana.”
He added: “To say the Government is not committed to reform of the gardai and holding people to account is absolutely nonsense.
“The whole approach that the Government is taking is about a fundamental reform of both the culture of An Garda Siochana and indeed the structures to ensure that we enforce and require a new culture in the future to ensure that the kind
of allegations that we heard yesterday are dealt with in a much more comprehensive way than seems to have been the case.”
Ms West and Ms Galligan told the committee that inaccuracies with the force’s Pulse recording system meant some killings were not registered as crimes.
They claimed significant pressures were brought to bear on them to sign off on a review which they felt did not address their worries.
Those included gardai not filling in fields in the IT system, particularly surrounding hate and domestic crimes.
They said there was an organisational culture where it was acceptable to record a homicide as a sudden death non-crime until an investigation had progressed and direction was received from the DPP to treat it as homicide.
But they claimed Pulse might not be updated at that stage.