Taoiseach expresses confidence in Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan

Thursday 13 March 2014 21.44
The Garda Inspectorate report found there were consistent breaches of policy in the penalty points system
The Garda Inspectorate report found there were consistent breaches of policy in the penalty points system

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said that he has full confidence in Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan.

His comments come after a Garda Inspectorate report found there were consistent and widespread breaches of policy by those charged with administering the penalty points system.

The Garda Inspectorate spent eight months investigating how the penalty points system works in practice and how it could be improved.

Speaking in Washington, Mr Kenny said ineffective management and lack of competency within An Garda Síochána had been exposed and that would be addressed now.

Mr Kenny said the commissioner has responsibility for dealing with the day-to-day running of An Garda Síochána, but clearly the findings have pointed out dysfunction within the force and that was now being addressed.

The Taoiseach said there will be a debate in the Dáil and questions will be taken on the matter by Minister for Justice Alan Shatter.

He said all of the actions that will be taken as a result of the exposure of this issue will mean there will be a fair, transparent, accountable system in the future.

Mr Kenny said the issues would not have been addressed in the way they are but for the fact that they were brought to light by the whistleblowers.

Meanwhile, a Criminal Justice Working Group, recommended in the Garda Inspectorate Report into the penalty points system, held its first meeting today.

The group is made up of representatives of the Departments of Transport and Justice, An Garda Síochána, the Courts Service and the Road Safety Authority.

The group held a private meeting at the Department of Transport.

An action plan to implement the recommendations contained in the Garda Inspectorate Report is understood to have been drawn up and agreed by the Government.

It also has the agreement of Commissioner Callinan.

The commissioner said gardaí had already introduced new measures to strengthen the penalty points system and he looked forward to the involvement of officers in the new working group. 

Meanwhile, garda whistleblower John Wilson has said he does not foresee "too many" gardaí coming forward to report malpractice while Mr Callinan is commissioner.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, the former garda said he would always encourage gardaí to come forward with any suspicions of malpractice or corruption within the force.

However, he said: "As long as Commissioner Callinan remains as Garda Commissioner you are not going to get too many guards coming forward to report anything."

Mr Wilson said the report by the Garda Inspectorate was a "damning indictment on garda management".

He reiterated that corruption existed within the force, but said whisteblowers had not alleged that any money exchanged hands.

Garda Inspectorate Chief Inspector Robert Olsen said the real problem was mismanagement and not corruption.

He told the same programme that the penalty point system was going unmonitored.

"You had 113 cancelling authorities who had no training on a very vague policy that didn't have very clear guidelines and when you have that many people making these subjective decisions they are all over the map," he said.

"No one was watching it and I don't care what kind of a system or what kind of a business you're in, if no one is paying attention to the process then things will go awry."

Yesterday, the report by the Garda Inspectorate into the penalty points system found that there were consistent and widespread breaches of policy by those in charge.

The inspectorate found that there was no meaningful evidence of consistent quality-management supervision of the cancellation process, either at garda headquarters, regional, divisional, district or any level that would have detected and rectified these problems.

The report stated that the accumulation of "fixes" over the years resulted in a technically deficient, managerially uncoordinated and inefficient support system.

The inspectorate also found that the system was fraught with wasteful use of garda and other stakeholder resources in administering the system.

Independent TD Mick Wallace said the report did not contain any surprises for him.

Speaking on RTE's Today with Sean O'Rourke, he asked how the Minister for Justice and the Garda Commissioner could stand over comments they have made over the past 18 months in relation to the controversy.

He said there was no doubt the penalty points system was a good one, but it was working in a dysfunctional manner.

Commissioner Callinan moved yesterday to clarify his use of the term "disgusting" during his appearance at the Public Accounts Committee in January.

"My use of that term was not in reference to the character of either Sgt [Maurice] McCabe or former Garda Wilson, but the manner in which personal and sensitive data was inappropriately appearing in the public domain without regard to due process and fair procedures," he said.

The commissioner said any garda who reported wrongdoing had his "absolute support and commitment".