The GRA has voiced grave concern about comments made by the Minister of Justice that some gardaí were being bribed by journalists.

Michael Kirby, President of the GRA, said, 'The allegations that are being bandied about throughout the media are scurrilous to our members - as well as the journalist profession. Our members are incensed by these comments and feel personally affronted.

He said the Association was surprised that the Minister would even contemplate such an allegation, as it is inappropriate for him to do so.

The GRA is demanding that the Minister either provide the evidence to support his claims or immediately withdraws the allegation.

Mr McDowell has repeated that he knows journalists are bribing gardaí but is not going to produce any evidence of it.

However, the Minister watered down his proposals for the Garda Bill 2003, which would regulate what information gardaí could disclose.

Mr McDowell now says it will be an offence for gardaí to provide information improperly for reward, information which will compromise a citizen's integrity, impede a criminal investigation or undermine the security of the State.

The Minister, who is a former Attorney General, insists he knows that some journalists are bribing some gardaí. He will not, however, substantiate this statement or provide evidence and says the public will have to trust him on the proposals.

Speaking on RTÉ Radio earlier, Mr McDowell said the effectiveness of the Gardai is compromised by what he called the leaking of information to journalists, and added that any journalist who corrupts a garda is committing an offence as well.

The Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors earlier said its members were outraged and offended by the bribery claim.

A spokesman said alleged instances of bribes being paid to gardaí by journalists should be investigated.

Austin Kenny also said the forthcoming Bill, which is designed to bring gardaí into line with central bank investigators and tax inspectors, deals too much with generalisations.

Meanwhile, the National Union of Journalists accused Mr McDowell of distorting the position of those opposed to aspects of the forthcoming Bill.