Proposed removal of powers from Policing Authority ‘a backward step’ – Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD
Sinn Féin Justice spokesperson Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD has responded to the Government’s proposed implementation plan for the Commission on the Future of Policing Report, saying that, while many of the report’s proposals are positive and need implementation, the retrograde proposals on oversight should be dropped.
The Cork South-Central TD said:
“I am concerned at the proposal to merge the Policing Authority with the Garda Inspectorate into a new Policing and Community Oversight Safety Commission (PCSOC) and to have some of its powers removed.
“I expressed this view at the time of publication and nothing I have heard from the Minister or anyone else has changed my mind in that regard.
“The Policing Authority was beginning to grow in its strength and ability to hold the Gardaí to account. Its meetings are in public and it has some real powers, though I would have preferred it had more.
“In particular, it had responsibility for recruitment of senior Garda ranks and its approval was required for policing plans.
“Under these new plans, appointment for senior ranks would be returned to an internal Garda board and the Garda Commissioner.
"Ultimately, this will shift power and an element of oversight away from the external bodies and back to Garda Headquarters. The Minister should not proceed with this change. It is not in keeping with the path on which policing reform has been moving in Ireland.
“This is also the view of members of the Commission. According to the report, Dr Vicky Conway and Dr Eddie Molloy said that, ‘We believe that the solution should be to adequately empower the Policing Authority while encouraging maturation of the culture of An Garda Síochána concerning external accountability’.
“While there may be some sense in combining the work of the inspectorate and the policing authority in one body, there should be no movement away from public scrutiny and external oversight.
“I fear that PCSOC risks being a paper tiger and being unable to hold the Gardaí to account if it has no powers over it, as proposed.
"Many of the Commission on the future of Policing Recommendations we agree with and address many of the points raised by Sinn Féin in our submission.
"We believe much of these recommendations have the ability to be part of a significant transformation of policing in Ireland, reorientating the focus of the Gardaí back out in to the community
"However, the oversight proposals are wrong, it is no coincidence that this is the issue the Commission split on, and it should be dropped
“It is no coincidence that this is the issue on which the Commission was divided and it should be dropped.”