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Question

53. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the steps he has taken to review the supports available to Garda whistleblowers, particularly in view of GSOC's acknowledgement of its lack of resources in fulfilling this function; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5652/18]

Answer

Deputy Charles Flanagan: I am satisfied with the protection provided to persons who make protected disclosures in An Garda Síochána. Deputy Daly is aware the Protected Disclosures Act came into operation on 15 July 2014. A member of the Garda who makes a disclosure in accordance with the Act is entitled to all the protections provided for whistleblowers in the legislation. These protections include protection from having their identity revealed, protection from dismissal and protection from being penalised in their employment as a result of having made a protected disclosure. These supports are, therefore, available to any person in the Garda organisation who makes a protected disclosure. An Garda Síochána has signed up to Transparency International Ireland's integrity at work initiative, which will involve external validation of these processes.
Members of the Garda Síochána may communicate their concerns to the Garda Commissioner, as their employer if they so choose, or under the 2016 Act they may opt to make a disclosure directly to GSOC, which is a prescribed body for receiving protected disclosures. Where a protected disclosure is made to GSOC, the Act provides that GSOC may, if it appears to it desirable in the public interest to do so, investigate the disclosure. It is also open to a member of the Garda Síochána to make a protected disclosure to me as Minister, and I will consider it in the context of my Department's sectoral policy on protected disclosures.
GSOC has a very important role in ensuring that public confidence in the Garda Síochána is safeguarded, and it has extensive powers under the 2005 Act to enable it to carry out its responsibilities. I assure the Deputy that resources and funding are kept under continuing review to ensure that GSOC is enabled to continue to operate effectively and efficiently and in accordance with its statutory remit. In May 2017, sanction was given for an additional five staff to create a dedicated unit in GSOC to deal with protected disclosures. It must be borne in mind that there were, at that time, a relatively small number of disclosures on hand in GSOC. The sanction was provided on the clear understanding that GSOC would revert should the evolving situation indicate that greater resources were required. It is unfortunate that, eight months later, it would appear that GSOC has not yet succeeded in recruiting all the staff who were sanctioned. I am at one with the Deputy in my being keen to ensure there are available resources to allow GSOC conduct its statutory duties and obligations.