October 25: Collins wants garda chief answerable to commission

A new Bill which would enhance the work of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission was introduced in the Dáil by Fianna Fáil’s Justice Spokesman Niall Collins.

A new Bill which would enhance the work of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission was introduced in the Dáil by Fianna Fáil’s Justice Spokesman Niall Collins.

He said the Bill would make the Garda Commissioner responsible to the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission. It would allow the Commission to investigate complaints concerning the conduct of any member of the Garda Síochána made by another member of An Garda Síochána. It would remove the requirement for consent in order for the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission to reach informal resolution of complaints. It would grant the Commission access to the Garda PULSE computer system and it would permit the Commission to examine any practice, policy or procedure of An Garda Síochána in order to prevent subsequent abuse.

“The Bill seeks to close the gap between An Garda Síochána and the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission and rebalance that relationship,” he said.

“It seeks to give GSOC the powers to act independently and in a manner not in any way reliant on key figures in either the Department of Justice and Equality or An Garda Síochána. We saw the failure of the current system when members of the commission had to take to the public airwaves to air their concerns about the shortcomings of the legislation which enables them to carry out their functions.”

The Bill, he said, which was published in February of this year, sought to address the issues that arose in recent controversies and to include the Garda Commissioner, as chief of police, among the positions over which the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission would have oversight, except with regard to issues of national security.

“We agree that it is not logical or consistent to think that the chief of a body such as the Garda Síochána, which is subject to oversight, is not subject to the same degree of oversight,” he said. “There is a disconnect and this gap needs to be closed. The Bill will close that gap.”

The Government did not oppose the Bill at its first stage.

Budget about building for future, says Finance Minister Noonan

Budget 2015 is about securing the recovery, building for the future and broadening it to families across the country, Minister Michael Noonan told the Dáil in his Budget statement.

“This Government will not be returning to the boom and bust model of the past that has spectacularly and repeatedly failed the Irish people,” he said.

“We must secure a new economy for a new Ireland. Of course, we must continue to deal with the legacy issues of the economic crisis, and we will do so, but today is about looking forward. It is about building for the future upon this solid foundation that has been so painstakingly laid.”

As a result of the policies pursued by the Government and the sacrifices of the people, the economic and fiscal framework underpinning this year’s Budget is far more favourable than in previous years, he said.

“The recovery is gaining momentum,” he said. “While exports are continuing to grow, the recovery is broadening, with domestic sources of growth, consumer spending and investment contributing positively for the first time since 2007. We have now had seven consecutive quarters of solid annual employment expansion and seen an increase in employment of over 70,000 people at work since the low point in early 2012. Unemployment is at 11.1%, its lowest level in five and a half years and has fallen for 27 months in a row.”

Minister Noonan said his Department is forecasting a continuation of this trend and expects unemployment to fall to an average of just above 10% next year.

“It is clear that the measures introduced to support job creation in key sectors of the economy are working,” he said. “My Department estimates that there will be around 1,920,000 people in work by the end of the year - this is over 80,000 higher than at the low point two and a half years ago. By the end of 2015, it is anticipated that the increase from the low point will be around 128,000 and we expect to have two million people at work in 2016.”

Deputy Patrick O’Donovan said his constituency covers an area that is heavily dependent on agriculture. “Therefore, I welcome the related measures that have been included by the Ministers for Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform,” he said. “They will ensure that a €26 billion industry which employs more than 170,000 people will be sustained in future. From the point of view of the Limerick area this is of considerable significance.”