Ó Snodaigh refutes Lenihan's claims on Garda Authority
Sinn Féin Justice Spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has strongly refuted the new Minister for Justice Brian Lenihan's claim that An Garda Síochána could not be placed in the hands of an independent authority because of its role in the State's security. Speaking today Deputy Ó Snodaigh said, "Not only is it possible because all members of a policing board could be bound by the Official Secrets Acts but it is also obligatory under the equivalence and security provisions of the Good Friday Agreement."
Responding to the Minister's comments at the McGill Summer School yesterday he said, "The Minister is absolutely right when he says that the government should cease abdicating its responsibilities to state agencies or bodies. One of the most stark and democratically damaging examples of this has been the abdication of responsibility by the Minister for Health to the HSE. However he is wrong when he excludes his own department from his comments. His predecessor Michael McDowell frequently avoided parliamentary efforts to hold him to account in his areas of responsibility by claiming that the issues raised were matters for the Irish Prison Service or the Courts Service and not himself. Actions speak louder than words and it remains to be seen whether the new Minister will allow himself to be held accountable or if he will in turn abdicate responsibility to state agencies.
"Abdicating responsibility to unaccountable state agencies is indeed anti-democratic however in the interests of democracy certain arms of the state such as An Garda Síochána must be independent of the government of the day. Sinn Féin tabled amendments to the most recent Criminal Justice Bill which would have provided for the establishment of an independent policing authority with all-party, community and voluntary representation like the policing board in the North. We absolutely reject the Minister's argument that this is not possible on the grounds that the Gardaí have a security intelligence function. Not only is it possible because all members of a policing board could be bound by the Official Secrets Acts but it is also obligatory under the equivalence and security provisions of the Good Friday Agreement. Political policing is alive and kicking in this state. An independent authority as advocated by the Patten report and like the Policing Board in the Six Counties must be introduced here if political policing by An Garda Síochána is to be stopped once and for all." ENDS