by Frank Schnittger
Tue Mar 28th, 2017 at 04:09:50 PM EST
Irish Independent: Garda bosses don't deserve respect (Scroll down to second letter)
A report by the Irish stockbroker Davy has found that average public sector wages amounted to 47,400 in Ireland, 40pc more than the average wage in the private sector.
In addition, Davy's calculations indicated that a private sector worker would need to save 590,000 to buy an annuity on retirement that matched public sector career-average salary pensions of 23,000 a year.
It also noted that public servants in Ireland were better paid on average than their counterparts in many other European countries. In the UK, average public sector wages are £26,200 (30,800), which is on a par with what their counterparts in the private sector earn.
Members of An Garda Síochána had the highest average pay in 2016 at 64,700, or almost twice the average private sector wage. Surely one could expect extraordinary efficiency and competence for such generous remuneration?
Not a bit of it. Garda management is now known to have inflated its breath test statistics by almost 100pc and caused the wrongful conviction of thousands of motorists.
Even more worryingly, it is claimed that senior officers have no idea how this happened, and it seems they have no interest in investigating further. Those in private sector management would be sacked for allowing such conduct on their watch.
It seems clear that Garda management is incapable of running an efficient or truthful operation.
How is the public supposed to respect the law and the law-enforcers when the law enforcers themselves have shown such contempt for their responsibilities to the public?
I have no difficulty with gardaí and public sector workers in general being well paid, but they should have to earn it through the quality and integrity of the services they provide.
Blessington, Co Wicklow
An Garda Síochána, the Irish police service, has long been one of the more respected institutions of the Irish state. It was formed as a largely unarmed force in 1923 in the immediate aftermath of the Irish civil war - which was in itself a considerable achievement - given the bitter divisions in society at the time.
Over the years it has had its share of scandals - notably the failure to investigate and prosecute clerical sex abusers properly, allegations of collusion with the IRA, allegations of Garda corruption in Donegal, and allegations that a "heavy gang" within the Gardai was involved in the intimidation and mistreatment of detainees.
More recently there have been allegations that senior Gardai conducted a smear campaign against whistle blowers in the force, that they reported carrying out 2 million breathalyser tests on motorists when in fact only a million had been carried out, and that they failed to send out notifications to almost 15,000 motorists that their cars roadworthiness certificates were out of date, with the result that those motorists were convicted by the courts in absentia.
A number of reforms have been instituted over the years in an attempt to address those problems: notably the formation of a Garda Inspectorate, an Ombudsman Commission to handle complaints by the public, and the formation of a Policing Authority. Given that the latter first heard of the of the inflation of breathalyser test reports through the media, it seems doubtful that they have been an effective supervisory mechanism for the force.
There have been considerable political repercussions from the scandals that have effected the force, with former Minister for Justice, Alan Shatter being forced to resign, and current Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, facing considerable pressure to resign sooner rather than later as a result of the revelations of a smear campaign against a Garda Whistle-blower by senior officers in the force.
Morale in the force is said to be low, and there were recent threats of strike action (technically illegal) or a "work to rule" whereby Gardai would refuse to carry out their duties which were only resolved by increasing payments to the force. Given that members of the force already enjoy one of the highest average pay rates of any institution in the state, this has inevitably led to questions as to what, exactly, the public is getting for its money.
Hence my letter to the Editor above.
But it would be wrong to paint a picture of a Garda force entirely defined by the scandals which have surrounded it in recent years. I have always been impressed by the calibre of Garda Officers I have met through my work for Restorative Justice Services, and the average Garda you meet on the street has generally been courteous, intelligent, able, and resourceful in dealing with the problems of everyday policing. A friend, who completed a Phd on how the Gardai deal with the increasing diversity in Irish society, was generally positive in his appraisal.
Clearly, however, there is a problem with the higher echelons of the force. It has always seemed to me that the Gardai, and the Irish public service more generally, have placed an inordinate stress on conformity to group norms, loyalty to superiors, and on the avoidance of more difficult problems. Honesty, integrity, an ability and willingness to address more difficult issues, and the courage to take a stand on an issue of principle are not qualities one associates with the force. They are now paying the price of too many soft options having been taken too much of the time.
My hope is that one of the few remaining institutions of Irish society which has (just about) stood the test of time, will not come crashing down around us. Every state needs a functioning police force, and most of the time, the Gardai have discharged that responsibility well.