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Public's trust in gardaí 'seriously undermined' says Nuala O'Loan

Nuala O'Loan said public confidence had been undermined by recent controversies. Picture by Hugh Russell.

FORMER police ombudsman Baroness Nuala O’Loan has said that the public’s trust in gardaí has been “seriously undermined” by recent controversies.
She said a commission of inquiry, staffed by international experts and with powers to access Garda documents, would be required to restore trust.
“I think a national commission of inquiry is required now, and possibly an international commission of inquiry. That would send a very clear message about the intentions of government,” she told RTÉ.
“I think if such commission were appointed, it would need to have people from outside the island of Ireland serving on it.”
Baroness O’Loan described revelations of near 100 per cent over-reporting of breath-test statistics as “mind-boggling” and questioned how the many hours associated with conducting such tests might have been factored into the policing budget.
She said the recent revelations on inappropriate fixed-charge notice convictions, financial irregularity in the Garda Training College and media reports on investigations into homicide statistics raised serious questions about the basis for planning and funding for gardaí.
“The whole planning and funding of the guards is predicated on the work that they do and it seems unlikely to me that erroneous statistics are going to be limited to these three or four areas,” she said.
Asked if the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission should investigate whether any overtime was claimed for conducting the over-reported breath tests, Baroness O’Loan said: “You’d have to look at the individual facts of each case but that would certainly suggest to me a criminal inquiry.
“Certainly in the event of evidence of criminality, you are looking at something that is very serious and independent, in terms of an inquiry into the guards.”
Baroness O’Loan was also critical of the speed with which gardaí had reacted to concerns raised by whistleblowers.
She said it would be inappropriate for her to comment on whether Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan should step down but said that the findings of an internationally staffed commission would inform such decisions.
Baroness O’Loan served as ombudsman from 1999 to 2007 during reforms which involved the RUC being disbanded and the PSNI established.

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