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Ó Snodaigh - Independent Civilian Policing Board also needed

14 January, 2004

Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Justice, Equality and Human Rights Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has insisted that reported changes to the Government's draft Garda Síochána Bill do not go far enough, and that a commitment to establish a fully independent civilian Policing Board is also needed.

Deputy Ó Snodaigh said: "I welcome that the Minister has been open to strengthening the powers of the proposed Garda Inspectorate/Ombudsman Commission. Many of the changes outlined in press reports today such as the ability to initiate investigations, the granting of full powers of investigation, and the power to investigate and make recommendations on Garda policy and procedure are recommendations Sinn Féin has made in our own submission to the Minister on this issue. If these recommendations have been accepted of course we welcome this.

"However, the Minister is being typically disingenuous when he suggests that it is merely a matter of petty semantics whether he establishes a 'Garda Inspectorate' as he initially proposed, or an 'Ombudsman Commission' as he has now restyled it. This is not the case. One of the fundamental flaws in the Minister's original proposal is that the Garda Inspectorate would have responsibility for both complaints investigation and management oversight. As far as we know, this will also be the case with the so-called OmbudsmanCommission. It is Sinn Féin's position ? and this view is shared by the Irish Human Rights Commission - that investigation and oversight are both necessary for an accountable police force, but must be functionally separated for optimum accountability.

"In keeping with the Patten reform model, Sinn Féin has recommended the establishment of both a fully independent Garda Ombudsman to investigate complaints AND an independent civilian Policing Board to establish accountable oversight. This has become an internationally recognised best practice formulation, and on this basis we urge the Minister to also incorporate this recommendation into his revised Bill." ENDS

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