Clarity sought on GRA conference lobbying during lockdown that was contrary to AG advice - Martin Kenny TD
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Justice, Martin Kenny TD, questioned the Minister for Justice in the Dáil today about the lobbying of the Minister and senior civil servants in her department in the organising of a Garda conference in December 2020.
This involvement was in direct contravention to advice from the Attorney General’s office.
Teachta Kenny said:
“I received this information, and unfortunately it goes far deeper than simply ‘ignoring’ the advice of the Attorney General.
“Officials within the Department of Justice were told in late November that allowing the Garda Representative Association to hold their conference online due to pandemic restrictions would need a piece of legislation known as a statutory instrument and a tendering process.
“The AG’s advice at that time was that this was too complex to rush through, and that the conference should wait, as many others have during that time period.
“For a reason, best known to the Minister and her officials, there was a U-turn on this a week later. From the documents I have examined, it seems that after intensive and unregulated lobbying from members of the central executive committee of the GRA, the minister and her senior officials allowed for the holding of the conference.
“This occurred in the middle of the tendering process for the conference itself, such was the rush to hold the conference by the CEC of the body.
“The conference saw the removal of the President of the GRA at the time, who had made the department aware of his deep concerns around the unregulated lobbying and financial irregularities that were ongoing within the GRA at that time.
“There is a small cabal at work within the GRA who are at the centre of a number of financial irregularities, and unregulated lobbying at the highest levels of the Department of Justice, amongst numerous other issues.
“These irregularities were laid bare by the Ampersand report in 2018, with a number of recommendations that are yet to be implemented by the GRA.
“In fact, the information I have available to me explains that an IT system to track finances was recommended and designed as an outcome of the report, yet, three years later, it has not been implemented.
“The former GRA President who was trying to implement the Ampersand recommendations was removed at the 2020 conference.
“The voting record to remove him has not been released, nor is there an audit trail of attendees.
“10,000 ordinary, rank and file Gardai pay a sub each year to the GRA and they deserve accountability, transparency, and value for money.
“There is clearly a need for far-reaching reforms of the Garda Representative Association, and an end to the type of practices that were unearthed by the Ampersand Report and that we are still seeing today.”