At the Garda Representative Association (GRA) Conference today, the Minister for Justice and Equality, Charlie Flanagan TD, welcomed the Conference’s focus on the changes and challenges facing the service as its centenary approaches.
“The landscape which faces An Garda Síochána is light-years from that which your forebears faced. This is why change and reform have been the watchwords of recent years. It’s good to see that your conference has as its theme “Preparing for Change”. I welcome what the GRA Secretary General, Pat Ennis, has had to say about the major change that is underway in An Garda Síochána and am heartened by the fact that the GRA’s and the Government are aligned with regard to the plan “A Policing Service for the Future”.
Stressing that Human Rights are the foundation of effective policing the Minister emphasised the importance of trust: “You can’t police without trust, and the fact is, that only a policing service whose primary objective is to uphold human rights will maintain the trust of the community it serves.”
The Minister also called on members to engage with the Code of Ethics.
“I believe that ethical behaviour is ingrained in your DNA. But I also believe that when we stand for something it can be helpful to focus on it, to state unequivocally that we do so. That is why, in my view the Garda Code of Ethics is a positive development. It restates traditional values, underpins them and raises consciousness of them. So I would like to see everyone adopting the Code.”
The Minister also reiterated the view of the Commission that issues of policing and public safety cannot be the sole responsibility of An Garda Síochána.
“You will always of course be at the centre of crime prevention, detection and rehabilitation but you cannot do it alone. These situations require multiagency co-operation. We must deliver that co-operation. It has to be the goal.”
The Minister acknowledged the importance of ongoing training for members and also spoke about the need for more progress on civilianisation.
“I would really like to see the pace of civilianisation accelerate see you reach the Commissioner’s target of 500 redeployments this year. I know your Association is engaging with management on this and I encourage you to embrace it positively.
“The appointment of Garda staff colleagues is not something any serving Garda member needs to fear. First and foremost you are police officers. You chose to be police officers and that choice, combined with your training, means that you are most effective when you are working as police officers. The purpose of this is that Gardaí who are already highly trained are deployed quickly to the frontline, where their valuable skills and experience can be used to better purpose”.
The Minister also referred to the situation in Drogheda and stated his intention that those responsible for the crimes which have been committed there would be brought to justice.
“This level of lawlessness will not be tolerated anywhere. Not in Drogheda, not in Dingle, down the road for where we are now, and not in Dublin. It will not be tolerated and it will be dealt with.”
And speaking of the calls for more Armed Response Units he said:
“The deployment of, and the number of, such units is a matter for the Commissioner and his team. I will support him in his assessment but I will not make that assessment for him.”
He also however stressed the fundamental make-up of the service: “We would do well to remind ourselves, that An Garda Síochána is a largely unarmed police service. It polices our people by consent. There will be occasions when an armed response is required. But I am sure you will agree with me that the real strength in An Garda Síochána lies in it being largely unarmed and therefore close to the people it serves.”
Notes to Editors:
Minister Flanagan’s full speech is available here.