Thursday, 5 July 2018
Commission on the Future of Policing Reports
11. To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality when he expects the Commission on the Future of Policing to finalise its final report; if he has received an interim report to date; the costs associated with the running of the commission, including salaries and so on, since its inception; if the new Garda Commissioner will be bound by the expected recommendations of the Commission on the Future of Policing; if the Minister has discussed the commission and its work with the new Garda Commissioner; if his attention has been drawn to whether the work of the commission was raised during the interview process; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29597/18]
We sought an outsider for the role of Garda Commissioner and we got one. I welcome him and wish him the best. We will judge him on his performance in An Garda Síochána. When does the Minister expect the Commission on the Future of Policing to finalise its report? Has he received any interim reports to date and, if so, what is the cost associated with same? Will the new Garda Commissioner be bound by the recommendations of the commission? Has the Minister discussed the Commission on the Future of policing with the new Garda Commissioner and was the work of the commission raised during the interview process?
I fundamentally disagree with Deputy Wallace's description of Mr. Drew Harris as an outsider. He is not an outsider. He is a policeman, an Ulster man and an Irishman and I very much welcome his appointment.
I am sure he will lead An Garda Síochána in terms of its modernisation and reform programme. Mr. Harris is far from an outsider. He comes to the role with a wealth of experience and knowledge, not only in terms of policing in Northern Ireland, but in international policing. His relationship with An Garda Síochána down through the years will stand him in very good stead.
The Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland, which began its work in May 2017, is undertaking a comprehensive examination of all aspects of policing, including all functions currently carried out by An Garda Síochána. It is also examining the full range of bodies that have a role in providing oversight and accountability for their activities.
The commission is due to report in September. I have discussed the issue with the chairperson of the commission, Kathleen O'Toole. The commission expects to publish its report in accordance with that timeline. The members of the commission come from diverse backgrounds and have impressive track records in their respective fields. The chairperson was a member of the Patten commission which developed the blueprint for the successful transformation of the PSNI following the Good Friday Agreement. I am confident that the commission's reportwill similarly chart a new course for policing in Ireland in the decades ahead and I look forward to receiving it.
Deputy Wallace will appreciate that the commission is an independent body and it is important that it is free to carry out its work in whatever manner it sees fit. It has not submitted an interim report but it has published two updates on its activities which may be of interest to the Deputy. These are available on the commission's website at .
Mr. Harris is an outsider in that he was not previously a member of An Garda Síochána. The Minister mentioned that the commission is an independent body, which is all the more reason there is no excuse for it not producing an interim report.
Will the commission cease to exist on publication of its report and, if so, who will have oversight of the implementation of its recommendations? In terms of holding the Garda Síochána to account, the Garda Inspectorate's recommendations are often ignored. The reason for this is weak legislation, for which the Government is responsible. The Garda Inspectorate has no statutory responsibility for the monitoring of the implementation of recommendations made in its reports. A process to enable it to do so was established with An Garda Síochána in 2008, which resulted in the publication of status implementation update reports twice a year on the Garda Inspectorate's website. While former Garda Commissioner, Mr. Callinan, complied with this process the last update was in November 2013 because former Garda Commissioner, Nóirín O'Sullivan, did away with it. She was not interested in that sort of nonsense. When we asked the Minister's predecessor why this process ceased the response was pressure of work.
Does the Minister believe the Garda Inspectorate should oversee implementation of the recommendations of the Commission on the Future of Policing, which will probably comprise most of the recommendations made by the Garda Inspectorate? Will the Garda Inspectorate have a role in this regard and will the Minister consider giving it statutory powers to monitor implementation of the commission's recommendations?
Following the establishment of the commission my Department engaged with the chairperson and secretariat on its budgetary needs, as mentioned by the Deputy. Sanction was obtained from the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform for €1.5 million. This budget includes the expected cost for the commission, including remuneration of the members and secretariat research in the conduct of an extensive public consultation process.
To date, the cost associated with the running of the commission has been just in excess of €1 million. It is expected that the total cost will be in line with the €1.5 million budget that was allocated. I am very much looking forward to the report, which I expect to be delivered on time. I also expect it to be sufficiently comprehensive to record the work done by the commission over the period of a year. It is important that there is an element of oversight of the recommendations. I have not decided what course of action might be taken in that regard but I agree with the Deputy that a form of oversight is advisable. I would be happy to take on board suggestions as to the manner in which that might be done. I agree there needs to be a firm form of oversight.
If the Minister is looking for suggestions, given that the Garda Inspectorate is probably the most impressive body to have come before the committee in the past two years, I suggest he give it the authority to oversee the recommendations. The new Garda Commissioner should provide an update on the website on how he is progressing with implementing the recommendations that have been put forward. This would make a lot of sense. I should add that it has been good to hear that the new Commissioner is not a spin merchant and is not obsessed with public relations. God knows we see a great deal of that, not only in State bodies but also in this place. It is to be welcomed that we are not getting a spin merchant this time around. We had enough of that the last time. I strongly encourage the Minister to give the Garda Inspectorate the statutory powers to monitor the implementation of the commission's recommendations.
I very much reject the Deputy's suggestion that nothing has been done with the Garda Inspectorate's report. I cite, for example, the welcome visibility of reforms that are under way on issues such as human resources and ICT. Another example is the conduct of an independent cultural audit of An Garda Síochána, which was published in May. This was the first such audit of the organisation. I assure the Deputy that once I receive the report of the commission, I will act on it. I look forward to its receipt and approval by Government. I assure the Deputy that neither I nor the Government have any intention of leaving it on a shelf to gather dust.
That is fine. I will explain the position to the House. Deputy Byrne had to do some work chairing a committee. Deputy Gino Kenny, who tabled Question No. 12, has kindly offered to allow the Deputy to ask his question first. Does the House agree? Agreed. I ask both sides to stick rigidly to the time constraints in order that we can accommodate Deputy Kenny's question afterwards.
I was expecting to ask my question after Deputy Gino Kenny's question. I am very grateful to the Deputy and apologise for my late arrival. I took the chair of the committee to allow Deputy O'Loughlin to go to the Chamber. I did not expect that other Deputies would not be in the Chamber to ask questions. Gabhaim buíochas. I am grateful to the House.