DÁIL QUESTION addressed to the Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald)
by Deputy Mattie McGrath
for WRITTEN on Tuesday, 11th October, 2016.
* To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality her plans to extend the powers of the Office of the Ombudsman; and if she will make a statement on the matter.
– Mattie McGrath
The Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) has a hugely important role in ensuring that public confidence in the Garda Síochána is safeguarded, and has extensive powers under the 2005 Act to enable it to carry out its responsibilities.
Significant changes were made to the powers of GSOC in the last two years including making GSOC a designated body for receiving protected disclosures.
The Deputy is no doubt aware of comments from GSOC’s Chairperson when she appeared before the Justice and Equality Committee recently. I am pleased that the Committee has had the opportunity to hear the Chairperson’s views on how matters might be improved. Judge Mary Ellen Ring has been the Chairperson of GSOC for a year and has made a significant contribution to ensuring confidence in GSOC’s oversight role.
In general terms the Chairperson called for changes to Part 4 of the Garda Síochána Act, which deals with the investigation of complaints, in order, as she saw it, to allow GSOC to function more effectively. The Chairperson also referred to minor service issues that she felt should be managed by Garda line management rather than GSOC. She also sought changes to the powers of GSOC to require the Garda Commissioner to provide it with information and documents in the context of investigations.
Given the on-going focus on Garda accountability and governance, the recent comments of the Chairperson, which reflect discussions that have taken place with Department officials, are an important input to the consideration of what further changes may be required to maintain and enhance confidence in the handling of complaints where members of An Garda Síochána are concerned. I am committed to ensuring that we have in place the most effective possible mechanism for the investigation of complaints and I intend to meet in the near future with the Chairperson of GSOC in the context of considering what further changes are desirable.