The role of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission is to independently investigate complaints made against members of the Garda Síochána. It can also investigate certain matters, without receiving a complaint from the general public, if it believes it is in the public interest to do so. The Commission has been receiving complaints since May 2007.
The Garda Act stipulates that GSOC is independent in the exercise of its functions. The Minister has no role in the processing of individual complaints which are referred to the Ombudsman Commission for investigation.
Members of the Commission
The Ombudsman Commission consists of 3 members, appointed by the President on the nomination of the Government. A person is not eligible to be nominated or appointed as a Commissioner if he or she is or has been a member of the Garda Síochána. The term of office can be from 3 to 6 years, as determined by the Government. The current Commissioners were appointed on 12 December 2016.
The Chairperson was appointed for a 5 year term and the two Commissioners were appointed for 4 year terms respectively:
Ms Justice Mary Ellen Ring (Chairperson)
Mr. Kieran Fitzgerald
Mr. Mark Toland
The Protected Disclosures Act 2014 has amended Garda legislation to allow Garda members to make “protected disclosures” to the Ombudsman Commission in confidence in respect of alleged Garda misconduct.
Increasing GSOC powers
GSOC has a hugely important role in ensuring that public confidence in the Garda Síochána is safeguarded. It has extensive powers under the 2005 Act to enable it to carry out its responsibilities. Significant changes were made to the powers of GSOC in recent years, most recently the Garda Síochána (Amendment) Act 2015 which included measures to reform, strengthen and clarify the remit and operation of GSOC.
The Minister is committed to ensuring that we have in place the most effective possible mechanism for the investigation of complaints. GSOC has been operating for 10 years now, and the Minister believes it is time to examine fundamentally the legislative provisions relating to the manner in which complaints are made to and dealt with by GSOC.
The Government agreed on 7 March, 2017 the drafting of Heads of a Bill to amend the Garda Síochána Act to enable GSOC to carry out its functions more effectively and efficiently and help continue to ensure proper accountability of the Garda Síochána in providing a service to the public.