42. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality the extent to which internal system failures have been identified in An Garda Síochána with particular reference to recent revelations; the degree to which such failures have been attributed to specific sectors; the extent to which the causes have been identified; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15690/17]
Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): I would like to emphasise at the outset that I have met with the Garda Commissioner and the Chairperson of the Policing Authority in the past days and have communicated my very serious concerns in relation to the significant road traffic enforcement errors that have come to light following the completion of extensive internal audits by An Garda Síochána.
The Deputy will be aware that An Garda Síochána has confirmed that it has put solutions in place to deal with the procedural and practice issues that have been detected to ensure that such errors do not recur. In addition, the Garda Commissioner has:
- announced the restructuring of traffic policing with the creation of a new Roads Policing Unit to be led by Assistant Commissioner Mick Finn;
- announced the creation of a dedicated team under newly-appointed Assistant Commissioner Michael O’Sullivan to investigate in detail the MATs issue, including with a view to identifying and holding responsible for their actions any Garda members, whether at junior, supervisory or management level, who acted improperly; and
- committed to forwarding the report of this investigation to the Policing Authority and Department of Justice and Equality when completed.
As such, the Deputy will appreciate that it is not possible to identify specific internal system failures in An Garda Síóchána until such time as Assistant Commissioner O'Sullivan's investigation is completed.
Notwithstanding any internal review the Government believes that an external investigation into these two specific matters needs be carried out.
The Government believes the level of public concern is now so profound that it may now be time to conduct a thorough, comprehensive and independent root-and-branch review of An Garda Síochána. That is clearly a proposal that will require further detailed consideration by the Government.
The Government also believes that any such proposal should command widespread support in the Oireachtas and accordingly be the subject of consultation with the Opposition, and ultimately approval by the Oireachtas.
The Garda Commissioner has been in direct contact with the Policing Authority in relation to the matters referred to in the Deputy's question and the Chairperson of the Policing Authority, Josephine Feehily, has confirmed that the Authority will:
- have an independent professional audit undertaken of the steps taken to resolve the issues; and
- oversee the investigation being undertaken by Assistant Commissioner O’Sullivan.
I welcome the fact that the focus of the Authority's next public meeting with the Garda Commissioner will be on road traffic enforcement. This public meeting will be held on 27 April 2017 and will provide a most timely opportunity for An Garda Síochána to engage with the Authority and the general public on these key procedural and practice issues that are now before us. The reason that I prioritised and set up the Authority was to shine a light on and examine issues such as these.
I will continue to maintain close contact with the Garda Commissioner and the Chairperson of the Policing Authority in relation to these matters.
Further detail on the Authority's role in examining this matter is outlined in a similar reply to the Deputy for answer today