The Chairperson of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission has said they have not been sufficiently resourced by Government to deal with protected disclosures made within the force.
Ms Justice Mary Ellen Ring was responding to the details contained in a confidential report from GSOC, which was obtained by RTÉ's This Week.
It reveals that the Ombudsman had sought more than twice the number of staff it was ultimately given to investigate serious allegations made by garda whistleblowers.
By law, GSOC is the designated body under which members of the force, or people working alongside An Garda Síochána, may bring any complaints or allegations they wish to be made in the form of a protected disclosure.
Ms Justice Ring said GSOC had "failed" people who came to it with protected disclosures due to a shortfall in staffing and resources.
She also said it was now time for GSOC to be independent and separate in all respects from the Department of Justice.
According to the previously unpublished report seen by This Week, GSOC wrote to the department in November 2016, seeking additional staff to establish a new dedicated Protected Disclosures Unit.
In that report, GSOC said it needed 12 extra staff, which included eight extra investigators, as well as a senior investigating officer (SIO) and a head of unit at principal officer grade.
GSOC said in the memo that if it was not provided with the required resources, it would undermine confidence in the protected disclosures process and in GSOC.
However, only five extra staff were appointed and of them, just four were investigators. No extra senior or analytical staff or additional resources were provided.
RTÉ News understands that at present the Protected Disclosures Unit (PDU) is operating on a part-time basis only, and with just three staff, none of whom are dedicated exclusively to working on protected disclosures from within the force.
Ms Justice Ring said that GSOC had approximately 20 protected disclosures on its books at present.
She said that given the detailed nature of many claims, GSOC needed to provide significant time and staff to investigate these claims fully.
She said that at the moment GSOC did not have the required number of staff to do this work, and that the three staff assigned on a part-time basis to the PDU were required to split their time with other non-PDU work, due to a shortage of staff.
She said that the four extra investigators were still only being hired through the Public Appointments Process, but that apart from these extra staff, the Ombudsman was not given the number of staff or any extra analytical support which it said it needed.
"Everything else in terms of support for the unit has to come out of our own resources," she said.
It had asked for a principal officer to be appointed to head the unit.
It was not allocated one of these so the unit will ultimately be headed up by an existing senior investigations officer, who is at assistant principal officer-grade.
Ms Justice Ring said that in appointing an existing SIO to head the unit, GSOC would have to reduce the current allocation of SIO within the ombudsman from seven down to six.
In the confidential report, GSOC estimated the full cost of the fully-staffed PDU would be just under €900,000.
Ms Justice Ring said this was "small enough money" in the context of the fact that it was GSOC's legal obligation to be able to deal with such disclosures in an effective and efficient manner.
She said that GSOC was aware that some gardaí are reluctant to come to them with complaints, but that if the Ombudsman had a full team dedicated to investigating such cases, it may find even more people coming forward.
She told RTÉ's This Week that at present, they were in the business of managing people's expectations that complaints could not be dealt with within any fixed period of time.
She said that everyone was frustrated by delays in the current process of protected disclosures.
She said that back in 2014, when GSOC was given these new powers as the designated body for protected disclosures within the force, not one person extra was assigned to deal with that additional work load.
She said that GSOC had set out proposals to the Department of Justice for legislation that would set it on an entirely independent standing and separate from any connection to the department.
She said it was "an unusual position, that an oversight body, GSOC, reports to a minister who is responsible for the body we oversee, the gardaí.
"We are seeking independence from the Department of Justice, so that all lines might be cleared into the future," she said.
"After ten years it's time for GSOC to be taken out of the Department of Justice and, subject to controls, be allowed to work on its own."
She said these proposals had been presented to the department under the watch of both the current Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan and the previous minister Frances Fitzgerald, but that GSOC "haven't seen anything yet" in terms of movement in that direction, although she said she remained hopeful.
The Department of Justice issued a statement this evening saying that it had examined the GSOC request, sought sanction for a number of posts to get the new unit established and informed GSOC that it could revisit the issue when the unit had been operating for a time and in light of the workload.
So far, GSOC has not provided any update on the operation of the unit, according to the department.
The minister met with GSOC on 7 September 2017 and the issue of resources was discussed.
GSOC undertook to provide a briefing to the department on what it estimates are its overall staffing requirements to meet all contingencies.
This will be considered once it is received, added the department statement.