Tuesday, 5 December 2017
Department of Justice and Equality
66. To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality if he is satisfied with the protection provided to persons making protected disclosures in An Garda Síochána; the basis for his satisfaction, or not; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51707/17]
Let me say straight out that I am satisfied with the protection provided to persons who make protected disclosures in An Garda Síochána.
As the Deputy is aware, the Protected Disclosures Act came into operation on 15 July 2014. Members of An Garda Síochána who wish to make a protected disclosure may do so in accordance with the provisions of the Act. The Act puts Gardaí in the same position, including receiving the same statutory protections, as others who wish to make a protected disclosure about alleged wrongdoing.
Accordingly, members of the Garda Síochána may communicate their concerns to the Garda Commissioner, as their employer if they so choose, or they may make a disclosure directly to GSOC. Where a protected disclosure is made to GSOC, the Act provides that GSOC may, if it appears to it desirable in the public interest to do so, investigate the disclosure. It is also open to a member of the Garda Síochána to make a protected disclosure to me as Minister and I will consider it in the context of my Department's sectorial policy on protected disclosures.
It is important to recognise the very significant fact that a member of the Gardaí who makes a disclosure in accordance with the Act is entitled to all the protections provided for whistleblowers in the Act. These protections include protection from having their identity revealed, protection from dismissal and protection from being penalised in their employment as a result of having made a protected disclosure.
The Garda Síochána have published their Protected Disclosures Policy and all Garda members and civilians have been informed of this policy. In addition the Garda Commissioner has appointed a Protected Disclosures Manager who is supported with a dedicated and properly trained team.
In light of the public interest in An Garda Síochána having robust policies and procedures in place to support and protect whistleblowers and to ensure that their complaints or allegations are fully investigated, my predecessor asked the Policing Authority on 2 June 2016 to examine and report on the policies and procedures in place in An Garda Síochána to deal with whistleblowers/whistleblowing. She also asked that they make any recommendations that they consider appropriate in order to ensure that the policies and procedures in place are appropriate and can provide assurance that whistleblowers can make complaints or allegations in a safe environment where their complaints or allegations are properly investigated.
The Policing Authority completed its review and reported to my predecessor on 11 November, 2016. The Report was published on my Department's website and has been laid before both Houses in accordance with the Act. An Garda Síochána have since published a revised policy document as result of the Report.
The Garda Commissioner is committed to providing an environment in which protected disclosures can be made in full knowledge that persons making such disclosures will be supported and protected in the workplace.
The Garda Síochána have been working with Transparency International Ireland and other external providers to create an environment to ensure that whistleblowers are properly protected and supported. An “Integrity at Work” pledge and “Integrity at Work Membership Agreement” was signed by the Garda Commissioner and Transparency International Ireland on 4 October, 2017.
The Deputy will see that there have been very significant changes in to the regime for making protected disclosures by member of the Gardaí. I have indicated, however, that I am considering whether other reforms could be introduces to further strengthen the protections in place.