Thursday, 23 June 2005
Garda Síochána Bill 2004 [Seanad]: Report Stage (Resumed) and Final Stage.
Finian McGrath (Dublin North Central, Independent)
I support amendment No. 42 which is a constructive addition to the debate on this Bill. In regard to subsection (2) and the appointment of the deputy and assistant Garda commissioners, it is important to appoint the right people to senior positions. The phrase "merit-based" is significant because there is an urgent need to give priority to the quality people already in the Garda Síochána who have proved to be effective officers. There should be no other method or procedure for appointments to the top level. Members of the public and gardaí sometimes feel there is no process to reward valuable members of the Garda Síochána.
A transparent recruitment process is necessary to ensure that everyone concerned understands the procedures involved in the process. An opportunity exists to reform the Garda Síochána and develop it as a modern police force that meets international standards. Recent cases have damaged this debate which some might feel is a reaction to those events. There should be a constant process of change, development and progress in organisations such as the police force. Amendment No. 42 deals positively with this issue.
Subsection (3) of the amendment, "The appointment of a Deputy Garda Commissioner and Assistant Garda Commissioner will be subject to ratification by Bord an Gharda Síochána", is also very constructive. The Minister should take on board the views of certain organisations, particularly in regard to the roles of the Minister and the Garda Commissioner. Some feel that the Bill runs the risk of over-centralising and politicising the Garda Síochána which would undermine its independence. The police should be and be seen to be of service to the public and not the tool of Government. It should be independent but also accountable as a servant of the State.
We must recognise the need to introduce changes and reforms, and improve the integrity and quality of the Garda Síochána. This amendment is part of that process because it adds a new dimension to the legislation. There are people within the force who have much to contribute, through merit and a strong work record. I worked with some of them both as a city councillor and a primary school teacher in the north inner city.
The greatest gap occurred in the 1980s at the time of the bad heroin epidemic in the north inner city when a group of young gardaí——