Houses of the Oireachtas

All parliamentary debates are now being published on our new website. The publication of debates on this website will cease in December 2018.

Go to oireachtas.ie

An Garda Síochána: Statements (Continued)

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 944 No. 2

First Page Previous Page Page of 84 Next Page Last Page

(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Frances Fitzgerald: Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald] She gave a very detailed report on the actions that had been taken and the investigation that had been done. The person had identified them as a reserve. A meeting took place with all the reserves. Every opportunity was given to people to raise issues and then I went back and asked if further action needed to be taken, and that was up to March 2015.

Deputy Jonathan O'Brien: Information on Jonathan O'Brien Zoom on Jonathan O'Brien The Tánaiste just said that the complaint was referred to An Garda Síochána by the Minister for Justice and Equality, yet in her statement she said it was referred to An Garda Síochána by the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport. Which is it?

Deputy Frances Fitzgerald: Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald It came from-----

Deputy Jonathan O'Brien: Information on Jonathan O'Brien Zoom on Jonathan O'Brien No. I am asking who referred it to the Garda?

Deputy Frances Fitzgerald: Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald Both referred it. The Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport referred it and when we got a copy of the letter, we sent it on as well. Both Departments sent it.

Deputy Jonathan O'Brien: Information on Jonathan O'Brien Zoom on Jonathan O'Brien The Tánaiste might clarify that and correct the record.

Deputy Frances Fitzgerald: Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald Both did so.

Deputy Jonathan O'Brien: Information on Jonathan O'Brien Zoom on Jonathan O'Brien The Tánaiste also said in June of last year that her Department became aware that some discrepancies had been identified in the mandatory alcohol testing and that the Garda was commencing a national audit, yet we know that national audit started in November 2016 but the review into the discrepancies had begun in 2015. The Tánaiste also said that in that letter An Garda Síochána said there were no issues arising out of the matter in regard to the mandatory alcohol testing but the letter also states that her officials sought regular updates. The Tánaiste said that the first she heard in regard to this as the line manager to the Commissioner was when a statement was made publicly. Is she saying that the Commissioner never discussed this issue with her and never informed her of the scale of it before she informed the media?

Deputy Frances Fitzgerald: Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald This was primarily dealt with by the traffic division. The head of it at the time was, I think, Assistant Commissioner Twomey, now it is Assistant Commissioner Finn and previously it was Assistant Commissioner O'Mahony, and they were doing a number of different jobs in An Garda Síochána. The main people I had an opportunity to discuss this with were at the ministerial meetings we held on transport where these issues obviously were on the agenda regularly in terms of road safety. The Road Safety Authority attended there. That was the primary place where I had the opportunity to be part of a discussion on these issues. In terms of the Garda Commissioner, I had had the detailed report from her back in May 2015. That was the contact I had. The more recent contact was from the assistant commissioner responsible for traffic to my Secretary General. The first time I heard this was at the press conference and the first time my Department heard this was last week.

Deputy Jonathan O'Brien: Information on Jonathan O'Brien Zoom on Jonathan O'Brien Given that the Tánaiste was made aware in June 2016 by An Garda Síochána that no issues stemmed from the audit, given that we have now discovered that nearly 1 million breath tests were falsified, given that the Tánaiste was not informed of that as the person responsible for oversight of our policing services, and given that the Commissioner who is accountable to the Tánaiste informed the media before she informed the Tánaiste as her line manager, how can the Tánaiste still have confidence in that individual who went to the media before she went to the Tánaiste?

Deputy Frances Fitzgerald: Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald I want to be clear about a number of the points the Deputy has raised. When I said that no issues stemmed from this audit with regard to the performance of mandatory alcohol testing, MAT, checkpoints or prosecutions emanating from same, and this was contained in the letter of June 2016, I am talking about the breath tests because obviously a different issue emerged in regard to that. Where breath tests were taken and somebody was found to be over the limit, those prosecutions are safe and have gone ahead and nothing arises in regard to that. That is what I am referring to there. In the same letter that I got in June 2016, it was indicated that there had been an audit in the southern region and because of some of the discrepancies that emerged there, the Garda had commenced a national audit. I was clearly aware at that point, because of the information the Garda had about one area, that they were concerned enough to do a national audit and to change procedures at that point. It is subsequent to all of that, as Assistant Commissioner Finn outlined to me at the ministerial meeting yesterday, that they had to go back to all 108 districts and gather all this material, which has been gathered by paper, so to speak. There was no national system of collecting this material and that is the reason it took the time it did to gather the information, but they did express concern about it and they were working on it.

Deputy Jonathan O'Brien: Information on Jonathan O'Brien Zoom on Jonathan O'Brien When they expressed that concern in the letter in 2016 and said there were discrepancies in the southern region, did they tell the Tánaiste how many discrepancies there were?

Deputy Frances Fitzgerald: Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald No, not at that time. They did not.

Deputy Jonathan O'Brien: Information on Jonathan O'Brien Zoom on Jonathan O'Brien Did the Tánaiste not ask?

Deputy Frances Fitzgerald: Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald I had the report and I was waiting for the further report.

Deputy Jonathan O'Brien: Information on Jonathan O'Brien Zoom on Jonathan O'Brien No. Did the Tánaiste not ask for the number of discrepancies?

Deputy Frances Fitzgerald: Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald As I said, we went back on a number of occasions and asked for further information. We were constantly waiting to get the complete national audit because that had been subsumed into a national audit that was more thorough and that was due in June of this year.

Deputy Jonathan O'Brien: Information on Jonathan O'Brien Zoom on Jonathan O'Brien So the Tánaiste did ask them. That is what she is saying now.

Deputy Frances Fitzgerald: Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald My Department was in contact with An Garda Síochána over the period-----

Deputy Jonathan O'Brien: Information on Jonathan O'Brien Zoom on Jonathan O'Brien Did the Tánaiste ask for the number of discrepancies identified in the southern region? Was she given that figure by An Garda Síochána, yes or no?

Deputy Frances Fitzgerald: Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald At that point I was not given that figure. I received that figure in March this year.

Deputy Jonathan O'Brien: Information on Jonathan O'Brien Zoom on Jonathan O'Brien The Tánaiste was not given the figures full stop. They were given to the media before they were given to the Tánaiste. Is that correct?

Deputy Frances Fitzgerald: Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald The Deputy is asking about two different things.

Deputy Jonathan O'Brien: Information on Jonathan O'Brien Zoom on Jonathan O'Brien First, in regard to the figures in the southern region-----

Deputy Frances Fitzgerald: Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald Yes.

Deputy Jonathan O'Brien: Information on Jonathan O'Brien Zoom on Jonathan O'Brien Did the Tánaiste ask for those figures when she was told there were discrepancies? She said she asked for them but she was not given them.

Deputy Frances Fitzgerald: Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald No. I did not say I asked for them. I said that what was happening at that point was that there was a full national audit being done and I was awaiting the results. My Department wanted the results of that national audit.

Deputy Jonathan O'Brien: Information on Jonathan O'Brien Zoom on Jonathan O'Brien I will ask the question again. Did the Tánaiste ask for the number of discrepancies which were identified in the southern region?

Deputy Frances Fitzgerald: Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald I was not in discussion with John Twomey at that point. My Department-----

Deputy Jonathan O'Brien: Information on Jonathan O'Brien Zoom on Jonathan O'Brien Is that a no?

Deputy Frances Fitzgerald: Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald I did not ask but my Department was in contact with the-----

Deputy Jonathan O'Brien: Information on Jonathan O'Brien Zoom on Jonathan O'Brien Did the Tánaiste's Department ask for the number of discrepancies?

Deputy Frances Fitzgerald: Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald No, my Department asked for the full audit over the period and what they said was that-----

Deputy Jonathan O'Brien: Information on Jonathan O'Brien Zoom on Jonathan O'Brien Tánaiste, it is very clear. Given the scale of the discrepancies of nearly 1 million, the scale of discrepancies in the southern region would have run into hundreds of thousands. The Tánaiste is asking us to believe that nobody said to anyone in her Department that discrepancies had been identified but they were not going to say what level of discrepancies had been identified, and that they were conduct a national audit and report to the Tánaiste. They did not report to her, however, they reported to the media. I ask again, how can she have confidence in a Commissioner who has overseen this?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl The Deputy is running out of time. I ask the Tánaiste to be brief.

Deputy Frances Fitzgerald: Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald The figure for the southern region that was made available to us just in March was that there was a 17% discrepancy at that point, but what has emerged is that the discrepancy in the southern region is far greater than that because the discrepancies across all regions are in excess of that. The lowest is 65%.

Deputy Jonathan O'Brien: Information on Jonathan O'Brien Zoom on Jonathan O'Brien There is a discrepancy in the discrepancies.

Deputy Frances Fitzgerald: Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald No. What is very clear, and it is one of the reasons the Government made the decision this morning, is that one cannot rely on the internal audits that were done, for example, the southern region audit. It is quite clear that when the full audit was done and they compared what the medical bureau had with their own figures, the discrepancy was much greater, which Assistant Commissioner Finn then put in the public arena last week when he realised-----

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Thank you, Tánaiste.

Deputy Jonathan O'Brien: Information on Jonathan O'Brien Zoom on Jonathan O'Brien A final question-----

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl No, Deputy. Your time is up. We have to move on.

Deputy Jonathan O'Brien: Information on Jonathan O'Brien Zoom on Jonathan O'Brien Who carried out the audit?

Deputy Frances Fitzgerald: Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald The audit section of An Garda Síochána. It was internal.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl I thank the Tánaiste. Our next contributor is Deputy Sean Sherlock.

Deputy Sean Sherlock: Information on Seán Sherlock Zoom on Seán Sherlock Has the Tánaiste faith in the Policing Authority? It is a simple question.

Deputy Frances Fitzgerald: Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald Yes. I think the Policing Authority is an excellent body. It is just entering its second year since its establishment.


Last Updated: 03/03/2020 15:22:49 First Page Previous Page Page of 84 Next Page Last Page