Thursday, 23 June 2005
Garda Síochána Bill 2004 [Seanad]: Report Stage (Resumed) and Final Stage.
Michael McDowell (Dublin South East, Progressive Democrats)
I hope that we are not changing it. It provides that a member of the Garda Síochána must make a declaration on the following lines:
I hereby solemnly and sincerely declare before God that—
I will faithfully discharge the duties of a member of the Garda Síochána with fairness, integrity, regard for human rights, diligence and impartiality, upholding the Constitution and the laws and according equal respect to all people
That is the duty of every member of the Garda Síochána. Making that declaration shows a fundamental commitment to human rights and constitutional values. Effectively, it is written into the contract of every aspirant member of the Garda Síochána. The Act states that, in pursuing its policing functions, which are similar to those of the Police Service of Northern Ireland, the Garda Síochána shall have regard to the need to uphold human rights.
We could write human rights into virtually every section of this Bill if we wished, and some people might be tempted to do so, but let us remember that this Bill is subject to the Constitution and must be construed in accordance with it. Since 2004, it has had to be interpreted in accordance with the European Convention on Human Rights. It is made very clear from the attestation oath or declaration of members of the force and the section that states that the force's functions that human rights are central to the activities of the Garda Síochána, and upholding them is a central value in carrying out every function, whether that be policing a U2 concert, interrogating a suspect, engaging in covert surveillance, community policing or dealing with young people or domestic violence. However one wishes to look at it, upholding human rights is stated in this statute to be a value that the Garda Síochána must bring to all its activities. I do not know how many times more that can be said. It is clear as day that upholding human rights is included in the Bill as presented to this House. No one could be against human rights.