Rebecca Black, PA
Revelations at the Garda Ombudsman office need an external investigation, the Association of Garda Sergeants & Inspectors (AGSI) has said, adding the group will seek a meeting with Minister for Justice Simon Harris to express their concerns.
It has emerged that an experienced investigator with the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) resigned after disclosing that he was at a party Gerry Hutch attended last week.
The gathering was held on Monday after Mr Hutch was found not guilty of the murder of David Byrne, who was shot dead at the Regency Hotel in Dublin on February 5th, 2016.
GSOC has launched an internal investigation into the matter.
“The only way to restore public trust is for @GardaOmbudsman and the Minister for Justice @SimonHarrisTD to externalise the matter. AGSI has not jumped to any conclusions. The report should be furnished without delay.” @antoabs speaking to @thisweekrte
— AGSI (@AGSI_Ireland) April 23, 2023
Mr Harris said on Saturday that it is a “serious matter which needs to be investigated”.
“That investigation is being considered by GSOC, so it would not be appropriate for me to comment on it at this time,” he said.
“I have requested a report from the chairperson of GSOC, which I expect to receive in the coming days.”
However, gardaí representative bodies have said an internal investigation is not sufficient.
Antoinette Cunningham, AGSI general secretary, said members are very concerned at the situation.
“We will be writing to the Minister for Justice tomorrow seeking an urgent meeting with him to express our very serious concerns,” she told RTÉ Radio’s This Week programme on Sunday.
“I think it takes us back to the question of who oversees GSOC – who watches the watchdog?
“We know they’re an independent statutory body to deal with complaints made against An Garda Síochána but they themselves have to be above reproach in doing that work.
“While I know the Minister for Justice said he was awaiting a report, we were very strong in our association in saying that a realistic degree of separation now has to exist between any report that GSOC might conduct, and this all has to be externalised for there to be any credibility around what may or what might evolve here.
“Public trust and public confidence in this body is hugely important, not only for members of An Garda Siochana, the members that we have that are the subject of ongoing investigations, but the public generally need to have trust and confidence in GSOC and in the work they do, and so a body looking into itself in the way GSOC are suggesting they might do, that wouldn’t be satisfactory as far as we are concerned.”
Brendan O’Connor, president of the Garda Representative Association (GRA), also expressed concern.
“This raises many fundamental questions about the operation of GSOC and concerns that the Garda Representative Association have had from its inception,” he said.
“We need to have complete confidence in the oversight mechanisms that are in place.”
He said it is “highly inappropriate” for the GSOC to carry out an internal investigation into the matter.
Labour TD Aodhán Ó Ríordáin backed the call for an external inquiry.
“I’ve written to the minister asking either for a retired judge or for senior counsel to undertake an investigation,” he said.