22.09.21 – Dail Eireann – John McGuinness

Deputy John McGuinness:
This legislation is a nod in the right direction in the context of reforming the administration of the Garda Síochána. If we want to learn something about the reform that is required, though, one need look no further than the case of the death of Shane O’Farrell. The courts, the Garda and the Director of Public Prosecution’s office were at fault. There is nothing in this Bill that will correct that fault and ensure that what happened to Shane O’Farrell does not happen again. Consider the case of Maurice McCabe and, in that regard, ask whether this Bill will change anything for the future. The answer is “No”.

Today, the Joint Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform, and Taoiseach met whistleblowers, one of them being John Wilson. He made it clear to us that what happened in the Garda down through the years while he was a member of it was still happening now. How can we stand by and let it happen? How can we ignore the voices that tell us something is wrong? In the context of this Bill, perhaps we should reflect on introducing another Bill to reform the Garda and ensure that legacy issues such as those of Maurice McCabe and John Wilson are addressed. There are many more gardaí who have made complaints and are waiting for results and whose lives are being destroyed, yet their cases are not being dealt with.

If one looks at the complaints made by citizens of this country about the treatment that some gardaí have meted out to them, one will see that those complaints spend years tied up in a system that does not deliver any conclusion and allows the matters to sit on the fence without being dealt with even while people’s lives are being destroyed. Gardaí who have been injured at work have been treated badly by their own system. They have not been paid, are dragged back to work and are not given the dignity they deserve. When one sees that, one must wonder about the management of the Garda Síochána and ask why such situations are allowed to happen. Management should come to our committee and convince us, or it should convince us by its actions, that change has been made and such cases will never be heard of again.

I have mentioned Shane O’Farrell, John Wilson and Maurice McCabe. The House listened as the then Minister told us that John Barrett was being suspended. That was years ago, but there has still been no conclusion to it. We do not know why that is or what has happened to date. Simply because it was brought before the House, I call on the Minister of State to intervene and find out what is happening in the case of John Barrett.

In the minutes remaining to me, let me make a case for every garda on duty. I hope that this Bill does not spread the administration too thin and that it puts in place the number of gardaí needed at community level to support the communities they are policing. My fear is that we do not have enough gardaí. From north Kilkenny to south Kilkenny and Kilkenny city, there are not enough gardaí. Stations have been closed in rural areas with populations that should have Garda stations, yet they are not being reviewed.
This legislation can be passed and the Garda can be asked to implement it, but if the Garda does not get substantially more funding, it will not be in a position to deliver the type of policing that has been described in the House today. I urge the Minister of State to examine the funding for policing and this legislation.