Tuesday, 12 June 2018
Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission: Motion
I thank the Deputies for their contributions to this important debate. From the Minister's contribution earlier, I hope that it is clear to the House that the skills and experience that Mr. Sullivan has gained in both investigative and oversight roles demonstrates why he is a most suitable candidate for appointment as a member of GSOC. It cannot be stated enough that the work GSOC does every day benefits the society we live in by instilling a public belief that accountability extends to all public services and to the police service of the State in particular. All too often, words such as accountability are used without any due regard for the organisation's charter ensuring that accountability. Organisations such as GSOC are called upon when situations demand a strong, robust and unquestionable response.
When the organisation in question is An Garda Síochána, the Minister believes that we have to be particularly strong in our response. GSOC fulfils that role admirably. The public demands a police service that is independent in the exercise of its obligations and functions yet is accountable for those actions. Those bodies charged with oversight of our national police service must also be independent. It is incumbent on all of us to support those bodies and respect the outcomes reached by them. As the House is aware, the Garda Síochána Act stipulates that GSOC is independent in the exercise of its functions. The Minister has no role in the processing of individual complaints referred for investigation nor does he have any legal authority to intervene or interfere in any investigations undertaken. Indeed, this guarantee of independence is the hallmark of effective oversight.
I recognise the point made by Deputy O'Callaghan. As the Minister has stated, it was hoped that Mr. Sullivan could meet the Joint Committee on Justice and Equality before this resolution was taken in the House. However, as Mr. Sullivan still had commitments to his employers in the United States, that did not prove possible. I thank Deputy O'Callaghan for his and his party's expression of support for the nomination of Mr. Sullivan and, indeed, other Deputies and parties as well. I thank Deputies Ó Laoghaire and Deputy Sherlock for their support too.
I assure Deputy O'Callaghan there were no undue delays in moving to have the vacancy filled. Furthermore, to ensure full transparency, the services of the Public Appointments Service were utilised. This should reassure the House that the process was independent. On the question of whether Mr. Sullivan would have any commitments to any other organisation following his appointment to GSOC, the answer is he will not. His commitment is 100% to GSOC. There may, however, be a requirement that Mr. Sullivan give evidence in a case in the United States arising from his current work but that is something he will have to agree with the chair of GSOC.
It is important there is general consensus in the House on the nomination of Mr. Sullivan and I thank the Deputies for that. References were made to the independence of GSOC and the fact that it engages gardaí on occasion. These matters are being examined in light of GSOC's submission on legislative change and I have no doubt they will be addressed in the report of the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland That report is due to be presented in September. The Minister has dealt with the issue of resources in his speech. Mr. Sullivan is joining GSOC at a time of great transition within the field of policing. It is timely that we should welcome him as the newest member of GSOC and wish him every success during this time of transition.