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Leaders' Questions (Continued)

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 944 No. 2

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin] If that was not bad enough, there were 1 million wrongly recorded breath tests, the data of which informed our entire policing and road traffic policies over the years but were based on falsehoods. The chief executive of the Road Safety Authority has said the absence of credible and reliable enforcement metrics makes it almost impossible to evaluate and measure the effectiveness of road safety interventions. That is a critical issue in saving lives. The Road Safety Authority is not the only one concerned. Today, Professor Denis Cusack of the Medical Bureau of Road Safety clearly said that both in 2014 and August 2015, the Garda was alerted to the significant discrepancies between the amount of equipment used and the amount of breath tests recorded.

I listened carefully to the Taoiseach's response. He said we are going to have another in-depth root and branch review of An Garda Síochána. That was the response of the Independent Alliance to the last crisis a few weeks ago. That was its bolt-in to that. Of course, we have heard nothing of it since.

We have a Garda authority. I agree with the Taoiseach profoundly on this. Let us have political consensus to have fundamental reform implemented now. Is it good that nobody takes accountability for what we know, namely, that 14,700 of our citizens were wrongly convicted, 147,000-odd summonses were wrongly issued and 1 million breath tests were wrongly recorded? Is nobody to be accountable, responsible or answerable for that? Is it acceptable to the Taoiseach that we are going to have a three-month period now when the people who were in charge will review their own performance and tell us what happened, although they have been seised of this in some shape or form for three years?

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny Deputy Howlin and I agreed on several issues relating to this previously and he has been clear on that. It is not acceptable that people were wrongly convicted. It is not acceptable that people did not get a letter indicating the option of accepting the penalty points and paying their charge but were summoned to court. In some of those cases, those charges were dismissed because they did not get the letter. In other words, they were wrongly convicted. The Garda has now apologised for that. It should not have happened.

When the law was changed to allow for that option to apply, that should have been known and understood by every garda throughout the country. It was common sense that if somebody was caught for speeding or whatever the charge might be, the first thing would be that the person should receive a letter giving them the option that was open there.

I am talking about a system that will restore integrity, as well as public confidence and trust in An Garda Síochána. It is not just about a cultural analysis but about a perception of the people now. Who do we believe? Here are the figures and here are the estimates but they are grossly out of kilter with each other.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin They were false.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny The systems have been put in place, as was evidenced by gardaí in the past few days, to deal with that for next year and beyond. We need to find out what happened in this case? That can only be done by an external examination outside of An Garda Síochána.

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton That is rubbish.

Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: Information on Mary Lou McDonald Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald It is a disgrace.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny The Deputies opposite may well shake their heads. Somebody has to find it out, however, and that is what the Government decided this morning. It is not good enough that nobody is answerable here. Can we not determine what the facts are and the truth, more importantly, about those facts? I understand Deputy Ó Caoláin has summoned the Garda Commissioner to attend the justice committee at 9 a.m. on Thursday. I also understand the Commissioner will also be meeting with the independent Policing Authority shortly. It is open under the Act for the independent Policing Authority to contract persons to assist with its duties. That is not an executive function, but in respect of the oversight responsibility it has for the Garda. It is the Garda Síochána Inspectorate, which itself is independent under the chairmanship of Mr. Robert Olson, which conducts the investigations into issues like this.

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