131. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Justice and Equality her views that two Garda whistleblowers, who made serious allegations of Garda malpractice over a year ago, have not had investigations of their complaints completed, and that they have been placed in a very vulnerable position, vis a vis their peers; her plans regarding same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19512/15]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): By way of background, can I explain that, prior to the Protected Disclosures Act 2014 coming into operation, whistleblowing by members of the Garda Síochána was provided for under the Garda Síochána (Confidential Reporting of Corruption or Malpractice) Regulations 2007, which provided for the appointment of an independent Confidential Recipient to whom Garda members, and civilian support staff, could report, in full confidence, instances where they believed there may have been corruption or malpractice within the Garda Síochána.
The Confidential Recipient was required to transmit each confidential report to the Garda Commissioner. Only where a confidential report contained an allegation which related to the Garda Commissioner was it transmitted to the Minister. In transmitting a report, the Confidential Recipient was obliged to protect the identity of the whistleblower, and any communication between the Confidential Recipient and the whistleblower was confidential and was not conveyed to the Minister or Departmental officials. The Regulations provided that any harassment or intimidation of a member who had made a confidential report would be dealt with in accordance with law and the relevant disciplinary regulations or disciplinary code.
This system was replaced by the Protected Disclosures Act 2014, which came into operation on 15 July 2014 as part of this Government's comprehensive approach to enhance the protection available to whistle blowers, including Garda whistleblowers. GSOC was prescribed under the Act as a body to receive protected disclosures on Garda matters. Under the Act, members of the Garda Síochána may now communicate their concerns to the Garda Commissioner, as their employer, or to GSOC as a prescribed body, and are entitled to the protections provided by the Act. I am satisfied that the legislative provisions now in place under the 2014 Act, including the protections afforded for whistleblowers, will prove to be an effective remedy for Garda members who wish to report their concerns regarding potential wrongdoing.
With regard to the two cases referred to by the Deputy, can I first of all make the point that all of us in this House must be very careful in discussing individual cases of whistleblowing. The Protected Disclosures Act rightly prioritises the confidentiality of the whistleblowing process, a confidentiality which is not easily reconciled with open discussions on the floor of this House. However, I can say that I am advised by the Garda authorities that reports in both of the cases referred to by the Deputy were originally received under the Confidential Recipient regulations. I understand that one of the cases is the subject of a comprehensive criminal investigation and upon completion may be the subject of a report to the Director of Public Prosecutions. I understand that the second case was subsequently referred to GSOC under the Protected Disclosures Act 2014.
I know that the Deputy will appreciate that I have no functions in relation to criminal investigations and the submission of files to the DPP, or in relation to the investigation of complaints by GSOC, and we must await the outcome of these investigations.