A Patten-style commission must not be allowed to delay reform of an Garda Síochána – Howlin

02 April 2017

Labour leader Brendan Howlin has today called on the Government to expedite the establishment of the promised root-and-branch review of an Garda Síochána, and has published draft terms of reference for an independent commission to carry out such a review. But he warned that this must not be used as an excuse to long-finger the Garda reform agenda.


Speaking today, Deputy Howlin said: “We have been hearing for some weeks that some form of root-and-branch external review of an Garda Síochána will be commissioned. And yet, despite much public discussion, we have not seen any indication that such a mechanism will be established quickly. To assist the Government, the Labour Party is today publishing terms of reference for an independent commission to carry out such a review, in a similar fashion to the Patten review of policing in Northern Ireland.


“But in the meantime there is no excuse for failing to proceed with the many recommendations of the Garda Síochána Inspectorate. These recommendations would transform organisational structure, governance and culture, workforce modernisation and use of technology in An Garda Síochána.


“On RTÉ radio today, Minister Paschal Donohoe seemed to indicate that he supported the call by the Labour Party for the powers of the Policing Authority to be expanded. Last Tuesday, we called for changes to allow that body to direct the Garda Commissioner to implement the many reforming recommendations of the Garda Inspectorate. Our proposal has also been attracting the support of other parties over recent days. It is time for the Tánaiste to commit to bringing forward legislation to make this a reality.


“An independent commission will have value and will assist with charting a long-term roadmap for transforming public perception of policing in Ireland. But there is no excuse for not getting on with implementing the many still outstanding reform recommendations in the interim.”


Draft Terms of Reference for a commission to conduct a root-and-branch review of an Garda Síochána


To inquire into policing and, on the basis of its findings, bring forward proposals for future structures and arrangements for the Garda Síochána, designed to promote –

  • policing that is both effective and efficient and fair and impartial,
  • accountability, both to the law and to the community,
  • a police service representative of the society it serves,
  • a police service separated from national security oversight,
  • the protection and vindication of the human rights and human dignity of all, and
  • widespread community support for the new arrangements.

In particular, the Commission should frame recommendations to ensure that:

  • the Garda Síochána is structured, managed and resourced so that it can be effective in discharging its full range of functions;
  • the police service is delivered in constructive and inclusive partnership with the community at all levels, with the maximum delegation of authority and responsibility;
  • the legislative framework requires the impartial discharge of policing functions and conforms with internationally accepted norms in relation to policing standards;
  • the Garda Síochána operates within a clear framework of accountability to the law and the community it serves, so that:
    • it is constrained by, accountable to and acts only within the law;
    • its powers and procedures are clearly established and publicly available;
    • there are open, accessible and independent means of investigating and adjudicating upon complaints;
    • there are clearly established arrangements enabling communities, and their political representatives, to articulate views and concerns about policing and to establish publicly their policing priorities and influence policing policies, subject to safeguards to ensure police impartiality and freedom from partisan political control;
    • there are arrangements for accountability and for the effective, efficient and economic use of resources in achieving policing objectives; and
    • there are means to ensure independent professional scrutiny and inspection of the Garda Síochána, to ensure that proper professional standards are maintained.

The Commission should consult widely, including in regional public sessions and with civic society, non-governmental and other expert organisations.


The Commission shall be established within one month, and shall be mandated to report no later than summer 2018.

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