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Sinn Féin proposals for reform of An Garda Siochana

26 November, 2003

Sinn Féin TD and spokesperson on Justice, Equality and Human Rights, Aengus Ó Snodaigh, today made public the party's submission on Garda reform that was submitted to the Department of Justice, Equality and Law reform earlier this month. Entitled "Policing for the People - Building safe communities, Rebuilding public confidence" the publication of this submission comes just days before the Oireachtas Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women's Rights meet to discuss a review of the Criminal Justice System.

Deputy Ó Snodaigh said:

"As the Minister for Justice himself has conceded, reform is now necessary given that the Garda Siochána has remained largely unreformed since its establishment. In the current climate of public lack of trust and confidence in the work of the Gardai - indeed including the Minister's own wife - we welcome the opportunity to redefine our policing system in the hope of bringing about a service which will be accountable and will have community confidence, support and co-operation.

"We would like to see this achieved through community policing partnerships at Garda district level based on the Patten priniciples, which are recognised internationally as representing best practice. The Patten principles include having human rights at the core of policing and we in Sinn Féin believe that the Minister's draft legislation should be revised to include this human rights ethos.

"We believe there should be a comprehensive reorganisation and review of all Garda structures, including the disbandment of the Special Branch, whose record of abuse against suspects are a matter of public record. The Government's proposal to put an additional 2,000 Gardai on the streets should be viewed in the context of existing resources and personnel. There is no point employing 2000 more Gardai when we don't, in the case of the Gardai Special Branch, know what existing personnel are doing or what resources are being diverted from day-to-day policing as a result of their activities. The spectacle of hundreds of Special Branch detectives sitting outside public meetings or Easter commemorations, spying on citizens the length and breadth of this state while growing fat on overtime pay, is something which I as a Irish republican am very familiar with. It amounts to nothing more than petty political harassment that is costing the taxpayers of this state dearly and should be ended.

"We also want to see a fully independent Garda Ombudsman, that will work with the Six-county Police Ombudsman to ensure all-Ireland accountability, put in place to provide an effective complaints mechanism and, again, to restore public confidence. This, we feel, should not just be a name, as the Minister has suggested, but a structure and the only acceptable structure to deal with complaints and public concerns in relation to Garda activity or inactivity.

"It is vital that these measures are put in place so that the Gardai can confidently and effectively work as a police service for and of the people." ENDS

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