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McBriarty, Morris, Accountability, Corruption and the Gardai

6.02.2005

Doubtless it has escaped no one’s attention that Justice Morris has delivered what has to be one of the most damning critiques of Garda activity since the May Day crowd got their day in court. Having perused through some of the findings I am hardly surprised, many phoenix readers will already have some inkling of the degree of malpractice currently pervading our law enforcement agency. There are a number of points that are raised on the margin of the broader Tribunal debate itself and these relate to Garda policy, control and political accountability.
The report offers little solace to the McBrearty families who were already fully aware of their innocence; it is to the leader and grand political master of our own secret police that they will turn for some conciliation and apology. If I were them I wouldn’t hold my breath, I don’t readily support McDowell in most cases, however this time I find the surprise that filled his voice absolutely astounding. This man has full political control of our national police force; he alongside Noel Conroy must be the ones who above all else are aware of “the dreadful truth of what has happened in these events”. The justice minister has been accused by Morris of not taking account of his initial recommendations and must be seriously examined for his conduct in watering down legislation for police ombudsmen.
The second point regards the ombudsman. There is now more than ever a call and serious desire on all sides for genuine and powerful oversight of Garda activity. This is to ensure to innocence of the majority of Gardai remains untainted by a scandal that could forever sour relations between people and the states law enforcers. For too long the Gardai have been getting an easy ride from political leaders and the media, the first because too many secrets are known by Garda handlers to get on the blue boys bad side, and the second because a good guard is a great source of leaks and stories. This is sickening for the man on the street that is forced to read how a powerful core of Gardai nearly sent an innocent man down willingly. This is high corruption of morals and of any semblance of law and due process.
A sacking witch-hunt after those at the top may be a salivating prospect for McDowell is a lovely scalp to take, however in the course of desiring resignation we are going to lose sight of the issues which led to such deviance, i.e. that no single disciplinary system exists to discourage rouge elements from criminality or to allow whistleblowers to come forward and report wrong doing. Our Gardai are not some angelic sect of our social strata they’re not knights of the templar and as such a similar cross section of Gardai is likely to be deviant as society of a whole. The reform of the Gardai is long overdue and must focus on an accountability culture. This is not some means which guarantees lefties a chance to stop all required Garda activity on the grounds of principle, accountability is a need to ensure that our Gardai know whom it is they are serving and how much we desire them to do so transparently and in a manner which is of benefit to society. We are at a crossroads in this state. we have a decrepit parliamentary system which grants far too much executive power this power is channelled into area like the police force while the people stand sidelined in the process, elections are not sufficient in ensuring that our will is done and some in a correct fashion.
When we lose trust in the pillars of our democracy and in the integrity of our system the reform needs to be sweeping and radical. A new procedure of appointments must be put in place removing the incestuous link between politics and the head of the Gardai, a new oversight body run on a parallel power base must be set up it must be empowered and free to investigate all levels of Garda, top to bottom. Garda corruption must be acknowledged and addressed pro-actively. We do not elect McDowell and his cohorts to sit in Stephens Green ignorant of what their charges are doing until a judge does their job for them. If he didn’t know then he is a fool, if he did then he is incompetent as a reformer and as a source of direction. The force must be cleaned up and reshaped. Dedicated Community Officers would be a handy addition in such a reformation but the main focus must be on clear and sane policing not underhand and slapdash approach to crime and a disregard for the rights of the citizen in exercising their power. Power is a dangerous thing and this state needs more checks in place because if the tribunals have shown us anything it is the degree to which power has corrupted our ruling class.
I am minded by this report that the Civil and Human rights of people in this state have long become decadent promises and ideals. They sound lovely but no one actually believes that we possess them. The freedom bestowed upon us by our sovereignty and our place as the holder of democratic accountability, the entitlements to a free and efficient health service, to free and efficient education, to a police force that respects human rights, the rule of law and due process have slowly and surely been relegated to lovely things that we really cant have. I am appalled by the state of the Government response to all of this. Our government is completely incoherent in terms of citizen rights, when it comes to the rights of business and other interests they are sharp as a tack. This is a sickening approach to the rights of people which has infiltrated state bodies wholesale, resulting in careless and wanton abuse of power and the perpetration of great ills on the citizens of this country. We must make sure that our government’s response is not a reactive attempt to plug a hole but a wholesale revision of outlook and direction which attacks issues of citizen rights and governmental responsibility. We need someone with direction and integrity, not someone who only acts when covering his own ass.
Red Rover

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