232. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Justice if she is satisfied that the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission, GSOC, has sufficient resources to carry out investigations in a timely way if it provides families with a family liaison officer in the same way as An Garda Síochána does, such as in the case of a family (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9277/21]
Minister for Justice (Deputy Helen McEntee): As the Deputy will be aware, the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission has a very important role to play in ensuring public confidence in An Garda Síochána and it has extensive powers under the Garda Síochána Act 2005 (as amended).
The Government is committed to ensuring that GSOC has the necessary supports and resources in order to fulfil its statutory functions and mandate. I can inform the Deputy that Budget 2021 made provision of €11.273 million for the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission to provide for the staff and expenses of GSOC’s operations.
In recent years, additional resources have been provided to GSOC in terms of an increased staff sanction, which has seen an additional 42 staff across the range of GSOC activities (investigation, case work and administration). The majority of these staff are now in place with a small number of vacancies to be filled in the coming weeks. My Department does of course engage closely with GSOC to keep any resource requirements under review.
I am informed by GSOC that in relevant investigations where a death has occurred, or is likely to occur, a Family Liaison Officer is appointed. GSOC have a number of trained Family Liaison Officers, who are drawn from within the pool of investigation staff. They are deployed when the need is identified by the Senior Investigation Officer leading the case and in conjunction with GSOC's Family Liaison Coordinator.
The role of the Family Liaison Officer is to act as a point of contact between the investigation team and the family. This will allow for a managed communication flow to keep the family concerned updated on the progress of the investigation and to provide information or evidence to the investigation team. Where the lead investigator wishes to communicate information to a family, this will normally be done through the liaison officer. Similarly, any questions which the family have for the investigation team are channelled through the Liaison Officer. Family Liaison Officers keep a log of all contacts and exchanges of information
A Family Liaison Officer can also provide information to families on available support services such as grief counselling, dealing with inquests, etc. Liaison Officers provide information packs to families containing appropriate support material which is individually tailored to the needs of the family concerned and the specifics of the case.