I thank the Policing Authority for commissioning this comprehensive report, which I received yesterday. I acknowledge the valuable work undertaken by Crowe Horwath.
The report is a very valuable analysis. I strongly welcome the clarity it brings. It presents a troubling picture of certain practices in An Garda Síochána while also providing a broader context. I have previously stated my deep concern at the serious failures of the Garda organisation in relation to alcohol checkpoints and fixed charge notices.
This report does more than identify shortcomings and failures, it sets out clear-cut recommendations to ensure these failures are not repeated. The Government established the Policing Authority to ensure oversight of policing practices, shed light on problems and identify solutions through its structured engagement with An Garda Síochána. This report represents oversight in action.
The report acknowledges some improvements have already been made. The next phase – the implementation of the recommendations of the Crowe Horwath report – will be critically important. Today I met with the Chair of the Policing Authority, Josephine Feehily, and Garda Commissioner Ó Cualáin, and asked that the Policing Authority work closely with An Garda Síochána to ensure the report’s recommendations are implemented urgently.
Modernisation and reform require a multi-faceted approach. We are putting in place the resources, both human and financial but as the Policing Authority has emphasised, cultural change within An Garda Síochána is all the more important. The Policing Authority has stated that some of the problems identified pre-date the recession and were cultural in nature. One of the Policing Authority’s first acts was to introduce a Garda Code of Ethics. Adherence to that code must become a fundamental part of our policing. I made clear to Commissioner Ó Cualáin today that Garda management must ensure that all members are committed to the values the Code sets out. I am confident that he and his colleagues understand the importance of ensuring that cultural change goes hand in hand with systemic improvements. The Policing Authority has a critical role to play in supporting and overseeing this process.
Moreover, it is important to remember that the expert Commission on the Future of Policing is undertaking a significant root and branch analysis of policing in Ireland. I have no doubt that this report will inform its work to bring about the transformation of policing in this country. However, I fully acknowledge the vital work undertaken everyday by the women and men of An Garda Síochána to ensure the safety and security of the people of Ireland.
This Government is taking action on resourcing. Garda numbers continue to rise towards our target of 15,000 by 2021; by year end, the strength of the service will be 13,500, an increase of 500 in a single year. Civilianisation of the force continues towards our target of 4,000. There is also a particular focus in filling key high-level civilian posts in Garda Headquarters in order to strengthen the management of the whole organisation. I note the report’s recommendations on technology, and some €330 million is being invested in Garda ICT infrastructure over the period 2016 to 2021.
I remain dedicated to doing everything in my power as Minister to ensure ethical and excellent policing, robust oversight and the modernisation of An Garda Síochána to ensure it can operate effectively and professionally in the public interest. The recommendations of this report can take us another step along that road.