Tánaiste warns garda malpractice must be "fully addressed"

The Independent Alliance called for an immediate, independent probe into An Garda Síochana to tackle the latest controversies

Tánaiste warns garda malpractice must be "fully addressed"

The Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality, Frances Fitzgerald speaks to the media, 24-03-2017. Image: Leah Farrell/RollingNews

Updated 19:00

The Tánaiste has outlined her “very serious concerns” to the Garda Commissioner and the Chairperson of the Policing Authority following the latest controversies to hit the force.

In a statement this evening, Frances Fitzgerald said she had made it clear to Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan that “robust, tested and verified” new systems will have to be put in place to avoid any future mistakes.

Yesterday, Garda officials revealed that 147,000 court summonses were issued between 2006 and 2016 for offences that did not require them.

Of those, 96% were included alongside other offences that could have landed them in court - but almost 6,000 were stand-alone and should have received a fixed charge notice instead.

Thousands of drivers are likely to have their penalties overturned as a result.

The force has also admitted that there is a huge discrepancy in their recorded breath test figures.

Official figures showed there were 1,995,369 roadside tests logged between 2011 and 2016 – however it has now emerged that almost one million of these never occurred.

Tánaiste's statement

In her statement this evening Minster Fitzgerald indicated she would back Commissioner O’Sullivan to remain in her position - but warned that the practices that allowed the errors to occur over many years will need to be "fully addressed."

She said the scale of the issues raised are “very concerning” adding that the Policing Authority will continue to investigate how the situation could have arisen.

“In relation to the mandatory alcohol testing solutions have been put in place and the Commissioner has advised me that she will take all steps necessary to ensure that this cannot reoccur,” she said.

“I have made it clear to the Commissioner that the practices that allowed this misreporting to happen within An Garda Síochána over many years need to be fully addressed and the new systems that she has put in place will need to be robust, tested and verified in the time ahead.”

The Independent Alliance

The Minister’s comments come after Fine Gael’s government partners, The Independent Alliance called for an immediate, independent review into Garda Síochana to tackle the latest controversies.

In February, following a series of revelations in the Garda whistleblower scandal, the Independent Alliance secured a Government commitment that an independent international expert would be appointed to examine "the administration, ethos and culture" of the force.  

The agreement was reached in return for the alliance supporting a motion of confidence in the Government.

Today, the group says the latest controversies highlight the need for an urgent probe.

In a statement, they said: "Following revelations of further controversies within An Garda Síochana relating to wrongful road traffic prosecutions and discrepancies in the recording of roadside breath tests, the Independent Alliance said this proves yet again that the administration, ethos and culture of An Garda Síochana needs to be reviewed immediately."

Opposition parties

A number of opposition parties have also spoken out about the latest revelations.

Sinn Féin's Gerry Adams said Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald "must demand a comprehensive explanation from Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan about this latest debacle".

Meanwhile, Fianna Fáil justice spokesperson Jim O'Callaghan said: "The lack of a coherent explanation from any quarter points to a lack of understanding of how serious this situation now is. 

"We need to see the Minister take the initiative and come forward immediately with her account of what has happened."