CLARE Garda Chief Superintendent John Kerin has said if it emerges that gardaí in this county contributed to the false reporting of one million fake alcohol breath tests, “maximum sanctions” will be applied.
Politicians have called for the resignation of Garda Commissioner Noirín O’Sullivan in recent days following the latest garda scandal involving the recording, nationally, of one million breath tests that never took place.
On Wednesday, Chief Superintendent Kerin told The Clare Champion that he did not yet have figures for Clare but accepted that fake breath tests are very likely to have taken place in the county.
“We’re hoping to be given a breakdown about where this happened across the country and in what areas. I really don’t know the extent of it in Clare but if it’s a countrywide thing, there is no doubt it would have gone on in Clare.
“If it has happened in Clare, I will be seriously hurt and disappointed. If I can establish who did this, there will be serious ramifications for them. There is no justification for it. If it did go on and if it can be identified who did it, I won’t need the Commissioner or anyone else to tell me that I have to take action against the people concerned. I would take it very personally that any individual would do that. If there are people identified, no matter who they are or what rank, who were behind this or involved, I don’t believe that they should be shown any mercy, good, bad or indifferent. Maximum sanctions should be imposed in Clare and around the country,” a clearly angry Chief Superintendent said.
“To be honest, I can’t rationalise why anyone would have done it. I have discussed this with colleagues of every rank. There was no pressure on anybody to say that they had breath-tested x amount of people. There would be details for testing checkpoints but, in any given 24-hour period, if there was 10 checkpoints allocated, three are cancelled because the people concerned are called away to other duties. There is a system where they simply invalidate that checkpoint on the Pulse computer. People have this impression that people were bettering themselves for promotion or advancement, saying that they had x amount of checkpoints or people breathalysed. That’s not even a factor in the promotion assessment forms or in interviews; that is never factored in. It’s just so GUBU as far as I’m concerned,” he stated.
The Clare garda boss said that he has never experienced as bad a time in his near four decades service in the force and feels that the public has been “let down” by An Garda Síochána.
“I have 39 years service and I’m really hurting, more than I’ve ever hurt, in the last two weeks with what has been revealed as going on. Some of it, I’d be happy enough to explain. Genuine mistakes were made but as regards the exaggeration of the mandatory alcohol testing, that cannot be justified.
“I genuinely feel that we’ve let the people down. The trust that they have placed in us has been eroded and we’re going to have to work seriously hard for years and years to come, to convince people that we are genuinely decent people that do a good job.
“I know that 99% of my people go out every day and they do a really good job. To think that stuff like that is being done and is eroding public confidence in us is really hurtful and aggravating, to be honest with you. Every guard of every rank has to be hurting because of it,” Chief Superintendent Kerin reflected.
While accepting that the force has contributed hugely to this erosion in public confidence, he also noted that the current and previous governments have not supported the gardaí in helping to finance necessary personnel.
“I’m not making excuses but we’ve had huge issues, which have been identified in the inspectorate reports. All the politicians are going on about the inspectorate reports not being acted upon but the main finding of the reports is that our IT systems are 30 years outdated. We’ve had no investment, until last year, in IT systems. They are going to take five or six years to kick in. Everyone has known this has been the position for 30 years, that our IT is crap.
“We’ve had a huge lack of supervisory resources, both civilian and garda-wise, to supervise units. It’s only in the last year and a half that we’ve got reasonable allocations of sergeants. There were a load of units and shifts that I had across the county, that didn’t have a sergeant attached to them. I just hadn’t been allocated the resources.
“All of the inspectorate reports say that there should be a huge number of civilians allocated to various positions within the force. But I’m down five civilian posts in the last three years. I’ve applied for replacements but I can’t get them. Over the last year, I’ve put about five gardaí into posts that should be held by civilians. Instead of getting additional civilian resources, I’m having to take gardaí off the streets, even though I have a shortage of gardaí, to put them in to manage these administrative functions for accountability purposes,” Chief Superintendent Kerin revealed.
“So, on the one hand, we’re criticised about the inspectorate reports not being actioned but the people that can action them for us are not doing that. It’s not at the Commissioner’s whim, to employ x amount of civilians. That’s a Government decision.
“While we have to take it on the chin that we’re wrong, we’re not being helped in trying to manage these situations,” he maintained.
By Peter O’Connell