Deputy Cathal Crowe
TWO TDS have raised in the Dail the ongoing investigations into gardai in the Limerick division with one calling it a “form of witch trial”.
Deputies Cathal Crowe and Richard O’Donoghue spoke about gardai’s use of “discretion” during the debate on the Garda Síochána (Functions and Operational Areas) Bill 2021.
Deputy Crowe said one could almost call the Limerick Garda Division “Salem because a form of witch trial has been ongoing there for the past two years”.
“Eight members have been suspended, 60 garda phones have been confiscated and morale has never been lower. Of the eight members on suspension, some have been waiting up to two years to be interviewed by the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation. All of this centres around discretion,” said Cllr Crowe.
“In the moment a garda pulls you over, he or she has the power of discretion. It is taught as part of the curriculum in Templemore. Discretion is just discretion, it is not defined and therein lies the problem. What has happened in Limerick in the past two years is that gardaí are being told they were wrong to use discretion. They were suspended because they flouted the Road Traffic Act and did not implement it properly,” said Deputy Crowe.
The Fianna Fail TD said we must move way beyond the model of “squaring off a ticket for a monsignor, a politician or a county hurler”.
“Everyone agrees that we must get beyond that, but we do not want a witch trial, which has been happening in Limerick in the past two years. They are sitting at home and morale is low. This has placed stress on and caused anguish for wives, husbands and children because of the shame that it carries. People have not been afforded the opportunity to clear their names,” said Deputy Crowe.
Deputy O’Donoghue (pictured below) said Limerick is down the eight gardaí who are under investigation.
“Over 60 phones have been confiscated and 160 investigations are pending in Limerick. Every garda whom I have spoken to in and outside the Limerick division has been trained and taught to use discretion. The terms used for this discretion when they were being trained were ‘an L7’ and ‘a square’. Is that no longer the case? Do gardaí have discretion in hardship cases any more?” he asked.
The Limerick TD said three years have been “wasted on investigations of misdemeanours that gardaí were actually trained to do at Templemore”.
“We are now prosecuting gardaí for doing the job they were trained to do. I am not condoning any gardxa breaking the law outside of that context. Any garda who does so must be prosecuted, but I am not in favour of wasting taxpayers' money and spending years upon years without gardaí on our streets in our towns and villages just because a garda did the job the way he or she was trained to.
“Surely the crimes that are being committed on our streets are more important. Antisocial behaviour, racist abuse and drug-related crimes are at an absolute high. Suspensions in the garda should be dealt with effectively and promptly, not after two or two and a half years,” said Deputy O’Donoghue, who highlighted a recent Little Blue Heroes charity event organised and supported by Newcastle West gardai.
“Gardaí work with people in the community and they should have discretion. They should not be penalised. It needs to come to an end this year,” he concluded.
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