Garda policy “does not actively encourage" whistleblowers to come forward

A garda statement said the force is "determined that anyone who brings forward issues or concerns will be listened to and supported"

Garda policy “does not actively encourage" whistleblowers to come forward

Justice Minister Francis Fitzgerald (left) and Garda Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan at the Scott Bravery medal award ceremony at Templemore Garda Training College. Image: Niall Carson PA Wire/PA Images

Updated 19:30

The Policing Authority has criticised an Garda Síocháina for allowing whistleblowers to be punished for coming forward with disclosures.

The report, released this afternoon, said garda policy “does not actively encourage workers to raise concerns about wrongdoing.”

The report makes a number of recommendations - most of which the force has welcomed and said it will examine

It has taken issue with Garda rules allowing members to be disciplined if they make claims "for malicious reasons" and warned that Irish law does not allow an employer to consider motive when someone is making a complaint.

The force has committed to rewording the rule but said the policy had aimed to protect members when complaints are made “in the absence of reasonable belief.”

The report recommends garda policy should be changed to "strengthen and clarify" the controls in place to protect those making anonymous claims and calls for greater clarity on how claims will be investigated.

It also called for a change to the garda system whereby all complaints are directed to single officer - although the force has responded by saying the policy is supposed to ensure all disclosures are handled by an appropriate outsider.

A garda statement welcomed the report and said the force has "already started taking on board" its recommendations.

"We are determined that anyone who brings forward issues or concerns will be listened to and supported," said the statement.

The Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Frances Fitzgerald welcomed the publication of the report and said the force “can only benefit” from taking allegations of wrongdoing by its own members seriously - while valuing and supporting those “who bring these matters to light.”

She said that while she believes there has been “clear progress in this regard;” an independent examination of the garda procedure is “in the public interest."

“It is clear from this report that there has been considerable interaction between the Authority and the Garda Síochána in relation to this exercise and that many of the recommendations have already been accepted,” she said.

She said a follow-up process is now being out in place to “ensure any outstanding issues are addressed.”

“Policy is only part of the approach to whistleblowing. Changes to culture and attitudes, and acceptance of those changes are also crucial. That is how trust in An Garda Síochána will be maintained and safeguarded,” she said.

She said garda management will now use the findings of the report to review whistleblowing policy and added that she is looking forward to “the outcome of that process.”