Government Statement regarding Reports of the Morris Tribunal
The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform has recently received the third, fourth and fifth reports of the Morris Tribunal which was established to inquire into certain allegations against members of the Garda in the Donegal area. As publication of elements of these three reports might prejudice criminal proceedings, the Minister will be applying to the High Court for directions pursuant to the instrument establishing the Tribunal and section 3 of the Tribunal of Inquiry (Evidence) (Amendment) Act, 2002 as to publication of the reports.
However, in addition to commenting on the specific matters which are the subject matter of the three reports, the Morris Tribunal has decided at this stage in its work to include some general comments in its more specific conclusions and recommendations. The Minister has brought these comments to the attention of the Government.
The Morris Tribunal has carried out the tasks assigned to it with diligence, independence, intelligence and fairness. With more than 450 days of hearing, it has completed 5 reports and 7 out of its 10 modules. The Government gives considerable weight to the views of the Tribunal and their earlier recommendations have substantially influenced the final form taken by the Garda Act 2005.
While sharing its acknowledgment of the proud record of the Garda, the Government cannot ignore the trenchant views now expressed by the Morris Tribunal which suggest that there is substantial evidence that internal discipline has been severely undermined within the organisation as a whole, due to a variety of factors and events. The Tribunal, in their latest reports, have criticised the existing Garda disciplinary procedures, saying that because of the overlay of legal formalism, procedures can be used to delay and frustrate simple and straightforward disciplinary investigations. The Morris Tribunal clearly state that police work requires the safeguard of strict internal discipline, with structures of strict accounting and with a swift method of disposing of members who are causing real problems. The Tribunal go on to warn that it goes without saying that organised insubordination on a mass scale would be a disaster. The Government notes that warning.
The Government has already taken a number of steps to enhance accountability arrangements within the Garda organisation. These include measures to address the need for more effective governance of the Force, including the new complaints and inspection structures, new disciplinary procedures and internal promotion systems. These steps are designed to support a culture of personal integrity, high performance and organisational effectiveness within the Gardaí and to enhance the overall professionalism of the Force.
In light of the latest comments from the Morris Tribunal it has been decided that special measures require to be taken to enhance the leadership structure of An Garda Síochána. The Minister has conferred with the Garda Commissioner in this regard and they have agreed certain proposals which will be put to Government in the coming weeks. These will include the establishment of a small advisory group which will address the issue of management and leadership development in consultation with the Minister and the Commissioner.
Details of the composition and terms of reference of this group will be announced by the Government in the coming days.
Maintaining confidence and morale in the Garda Síochána
In several of the prior reports and in its most recent conclusions, the Morris Tribunal has addressed the need to maintain the morale, commitment to and pride in service of the broad mass of the members of An Garda Síochána, including the young people who have joined its ranks in recent times.
The Government shares this concern and the Garda authorities are being asked to address this issue as a matter of urgency.
The Morris Tribunal have stated that the current disciplinary regulations need to be replaced by a new, less complex approach which will be swift and fair with a simple appeal process. The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform will in coming weeks publish new draft regulations on the lines recommended by Morris which will completely replace the existing system. It is the intention that these new regulations will be approved by Government and signed into law before the Summer recess.
The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform will also publish within a matter of weeks draft regulations for a Whistleblower's charter to enable members or other persons report in confidence allegations of corruption and malpractice within the Garda. These regulations will be brought into force as soon as the statutory consultation provided for in the Act has been completed.
Work in progress
The Tribunal, in its first report, was of the view that the Garda promotion system needs to be examined. The 2005 Act now specifies that each three-person Garda promotion board may in future contain only one member of the Force. New draft promotion regulations to implement this will be published within the next 6 weeks.
Measures already taken
- The members of the Garda Ombudsman Commission have been appointed and are expected to commence operations in 2007. The Ombudsman Commission will provide for a more robust and effective complaints system and it is also empowered to investigate any matter, even where no complaint has been made, where it appears that a member of the Force may have committed an offence or behaved in a manner that would justify disciplinary proceedings.
- The head of the Garda Inspectorate, Ms. Kathleen O'Toole, has recently been appointed. She and her colleagues will be tasked with ensuring on an ongoing basis that the resources of the Garda are used to achieve the highest levels of efficiency and effectiveness compared to best police international practice and standards.
- In the light of the findings and conclusions in the second report of the Tribunal a specific duty to account, was provided for in the 2005 Act, for members of the Garda. Failure to account may lead to dismissal
- New powers have been given to the Commissioner to dismiss members of the Force where by reason of the member's conduct his or her continued membership would undermine public confidence in An Garda Síochána. This new power of dismissal is separate and distinct from those provided otherwise in the general disciplinary regulations.
Sustaining the overall momentum of Garda Reform
The Government is determined to sustain the momentum of its programme for reform of An Garda Síochána, including delivery on all elements of the Garda Síochána Act, 2005. All its commitments to the full resourcing of the Force including recruiting members to bring its strength up to 14,000 members and the recruitment of a Reserve of volunteer members will be honoured by this administration
19 May 2006