What’s Going On In Athlone?

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Yesterday, during Leaders’ Questions, Independent TD Mick Wallace asked Taoiseach Enda Kenny about certain matters relating to the gardaí.

On two occasions, Mr Wallace asked Mr Kenny when he was made aware of Garda malpractice in Athlone and what he did about it when he became aware of it.

Mr Kenny said he wasn’t sure what Mr Wallace was talking about.

Mick Wallace: “Much talk of police reform has not materialised. The Guerin report was published in May 2014, nine months ago, but only now is a commission of investigation being established. Its terms are too narrow and it will go through the Houses without debate. Will it even be completed before the next election? Will the Fennelly commission be completed before the next election or will it be kicked down the road? When will the report on the independent review mechanism be published? In July, the Minister stated the majority of cases would be reviewed within 12 weeks. That was a long time ago. The independent Garda authority was supposed to be up and running by the end of 2014. We have not even seen the first draft of legislation. The Garda Inspectorate’s report into serious crime, published on 11 November, has not even been discussed here yet. Debate has been stifled on policing issues. Since 11 November we have tabled 16 Topical Issue matters on policing matters but none of them has been taken.”

“The latest penalty points fiasco has reinforced the fact that indiscipline is rampant in the senior ranks of the Garda. As Maurice McCabe stated at the weekend, the penalty points system is broken and the Government is putting sticking plasters on it. There is no law and order with regard to senior management. There are no sanctions when they break the rules. This is not just about penalty points. If this is how the law is applied to the penalty points system, how is it applied when it comes to charging someone, arresting someone, and taking someone’s complaint seriously? The Garda Inspectorate’s report went to great lengths to point out the Garda widely ignores its own policy. Indiscipline is rampant. What is the Government doing about it?”

“In light of all this indiscipline and given that investigations into allegations of very serious wrongdoing, including Garda involvement in the drug trade, are ongoing in a number of Garda divisions, will the Taoiseach give us an assurance that the promotions and movement of senior gardaí will not include gardaí from these districts before investigations are complete? Will the Taoiseach confirm or deny whether Inspector John McDonald, who is in charge of the fixed charge processing unit in Thurles and who has been responsible for multiple terminations at a huge cost to the State, has been placed on a promotions list?

Deputies: Out of order.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle Michael Kitt: “Please, Deputy, do not name these people.”

Wallace: “I would like the Taoiseach to listen carefully to my next question. Will he tell the House when he personally was first made aware of very serious Garda malpractice in the Athlone area, and what action did he take?

Durkan: “Out of order.”

Kenny: “I cannot answer all of the questions Deputy Wallace has raised. Am I to understand he is naming people who have been recommended for promotion, whom he alleges have been involved in criminal activities?”

Frances Fitzgerald: “Is that what he is saying?”

Kenny: “That is the import of what he is saying.”

Wallace: “I am asking—–”

Kitt: “The Taoiseach has the floor.”

Kenny: “If I understand what Deputy Wallace is saying, people involved in criminal activity are being nominated for promotion. Am I to understand that is what he is saying?”

Wallace: “If the Taoiseach checks the record that is not what I said.”

Kenny: “What did you say?”

Wallace: “I asked whether the person responsible for the fixed charge notice system in Thurles, who has been responsible for multiple terminations, is on a promotions list.”

Durkan: “You named the person.”

Kenny: “I do not have any information about who is or is not on a promotion list. I am glad the Deputy clarified the comment that he made.”

Wallace: “The Taoiseach can check the record later.”

Kenny: “The Deputy raised a number of issues. The Guerin report will follow the inquiry that the Government has agreed to set up. That will be set in place after today. The Fennelly inquiry is under way. The sole member wrote to me looking for an extension of time until the end of this year, and I have granted that. I support, if possible, the production by the inquiry of earlier reports in respect of a number of specific matters.”

“The review commission received 307 cases, some of which go back 30 years, and the vast majority of those have been examined by the panel of senior counsel and junior counsel appointed to review those cases. I assume that when they have completed their work they will bring that to the attention of the Minister for Justice and Equality very quickly.”

“I understand that the changes that have been made in respect of fixed penalty notice are significant and that there are now three senior personnel who are entitled and authorised to relieve penalty charges where they might be applied for whatever particular reasons. Yesterday the Government appointed a judge to oversee that practice, to give it further transparency and accountability.”

“Regarding the issues that I have missed in the Deputy’s long list…”

Fitzgerald: “The Garda authority legislation.”

Kenny: “When is that due to be ready?

Fitzgerald: “It is due shortly.”

Micheál Martin: “The Garda authority is due in here very shortly.”

Wallace: “The abuse of the penalty points system was so endemic that independent bodies have had to be created to keep an eye on things. The Taoiseach is not accepting the fact that there is massive indiscipline in the senior ranks of the force. Can he explain why there has been so little opportunity to debate policing matters since last summer? Can he also explain why the Government has no appetite for depoliticising policing in Ireland, despite the recommendations of the likes of Professor Dermot Walsh? Anyone who read Conor Brady’s book over Christmas would have noted that the politicisation of policing in Ireland has gone on since the 1950s at a really bad level, and that is part of the huge problem we are facing. Until the Government decides to depoliticise it and we have an independent police authority that acts as a buffer between the Government of the day and the police force, we will continue to have these problems. The former Minister, Deputy Shatter, would still be in power and would still have his job if there had not been such a flawed system, and the Government is not correcting it.”

I remind the Taoiseach of my last question to him, which he did not answer. I asked if he could tell the House when he was first made personally aware of very serious Garda malpractice in the Athlone area and what action he took.”

Kenny: “I am not clear on what the Deputy is talking about in respect of the Athlone area. He will have to give me further detail on that, and if he wishes to do so, he can give me it me after the completion of the Order of Business.”

Mattie McGrath: “Somebody might have picked it up.”

A Deputy: “What about you, Mattie?”

Kenny: “In respect of the independent policing authority, this is the most radical shake-up in the justice system since the foundation of the State. The appointment of the Garda Commissioner was subject to open competition and was a completely independent system for making that recommendation for appointment by Government. All promotions of senior personnel are done by a panel for which completely independent people apply. It is not a politicised system any more because the situation is completely independent, and there has been the most radical shake-up since the foundation of the State.”

“Out of 400,000 penalty points issued every year, about 2.9% are quashed, in accordance with the system that applies, where that is valid. There are only three people who can now quash penalty points. Since the new system was introduced, only seven cases have been referred for further analysis under this new system. In anybody’s language there has been a serious shake-up, and it has been for the better in terms of accountancy, accountability and transparency in a system that is very important for people.”

Previously: The Wrong Side Of The Thin Blue Line

Meanwhile In The Dáil

Related: Claims Shatter ‘muzzled’ Garda inquiry debate (Juno McEnroe, Irish Examiner)

Garda over penalty point office in line for promotion (Philip Ryan, Irish Independent)

Transcript via Oireachtas.ie

49 thoughts on “What’s Going On In Athlone?

        1. scottser

          up to a point. then it says ‘the owner of this beard holds the wisdom of the ages’ you know, like gandalf or dumbledore.

      1. Jess

        He should at least put on a suit, show a bit of respect for the house. You’d never catch the like like of Bertie Ahern or Brian Cowen or Charles Haughey or Liam Lawlor or Ray Burke or Michael Lowry or Jackie Healey Ray in a beard would you.

    1. martco

      I get that, I really really do
      but at the end of the day if you look back at his efforts over the term he’s worked hard and it’s a long long time since someone like him has made these kind of efforts @ Kildare St.
      imo I think he’s alright and maybe needs a bit of forgiveness/leeway on the vat scenario on balance…or maybe just I’m glad he’s in there rattling these mfkrs gilded tower

      1. Drogg

        I fully agree that he has certainly payed his dues but he still loses the moral high ground because of it.

    2. JimmytheHead

      Dude pays his employees before he settles the taxmans balance, commendable IMO. Hes a hero in Wexford town. Few of my cousins have played on his football team and say hes a legend.

      1. Drogg

        I have interviewed the man and he has some very interesting things to say, but just when he is taking the moral high ground on the ineptitude of the current government the tax evasion just sticks at the back of my throat.

      2. Milo

        He took his employees pension contributions to fund his Development Empire. His defrauding of the taxman had nothing to do with paying his staff other then he wanted to continue his bankrupt development business

    3. scottser

      if you’re going to tar td’s with the tax evasion brush, you’d want to make sure it’s a bloody big one.

      1. Drogg

        The difference being though is that Mick is the type of character who should be chasing down the tax evaders in the Dail not hiding at the back whenever it comes up.

        1. scottser

          i haven’t heard him deny it or avoid the issue when it comes, tbf. besides, it is really a small enough issue when there’s malpractice and corruption at much higher levels of society.

          1. 3stella

            I have some sympathy for Wallace circumstances here, Firstly It wasn’t personal Income tax, It was a company VAT under declaration, company’s are expected to pay VAT due on date of a invoice issued within the required VAT period, If as in common in Ireland people don’t pay within 30 days, more often 60 to 90 days or further, the economy’s collapsing, debtors are delaying payment or disappearing, your cash flow has dried up. companies are expected to pay VAT amounts on monies they haven’t received. It’s no excuse to under declare, but goes to explain while it often happens.

        2. Bluebeard

          he was straight up took it on the chin, apologised and moved on. To be honest, i didn’t mind the kind of dodging he did because it was to save his workers and his jobs. All better now and he has done way more good than bad.

          Funny how he is always hung for this when there are much bigger fish to fry. Thanks to the Independent for the relentless smear while ignoring others much closer to home.

          1. Drogg

            But thats just it, if you want to take down the corruption in the government, you, yourself have to be above reproach.

          2. Drogg

            You are getting me wrong i like Mick and what he does, but being the moral left in the dail means you must be above reproach. Otherwise your mistake will always tarnish your good work.

          3. Lilly

            Of course the Indo is going to smear Wallace. He’s rooting out corruption in the Garda, whereas group editor Stephen Rae is hellbent on covering for them at all costs. Clashing agendas. Overall Wallace is doing a good job.

  1. Kolmo

    This is very important, good work Broadsheet.ie, keep the light on what the inner cabal of interested parties don’t want the rest of us to see – the Gardaí have always had too much power, hidden behind the protection of certain media types and politicians who in-turn are protected.

    (I am aware of the decent, hard-working Gardaí in the system, genuinely concerned about society, but they don’t get far if they don’t play ball)

  2. martco

    Mick, I have to admit on balance I think you’ve repaid on past personal mistakes…you’re doing us all (any of us that give a shite about how our country is being run) a big service here showing up this institute(ion) for what it is, overpaid bullshitters…mostly none of them (especially king kenny) would ascend past a middle management level in any tier 1 corporate I’ve worked in
    you’re no gobshite, fair play

  3. Bluebeard

    Wallace is a hard working politician who is doing trojan work fearlessly. Its a shame he is too often judged by the cognoscenti on what he wears and how he speaks rather than what he says.

  4. Soundings

    Is there an answer to the question as to what is going on with the Gardai in Athlone?

    Are some of them suspected of involvement in criminality like that ban Garda recently?
    Have they been corruptly cancelling penalty points?
    Have they been corruptly massaging crime statistics?
    Have they been leaking confidential information to the Independent, Herald, Sunday World and Sunday Independent?
    Have they providing confidential information from Pulse to people in the private sector?

    Shure, you could accuse most Garda stations in the country of most of the above.

  5. phil

    As usual in Ireland when the ‘wrong person’ brings to light some very serious issues he is ignored because we play the man and never the ball….

    but in a strange way these ‘rouge’ opposition deputies are showing us the value of a strong opposition, I just find it strange that no government in power, as far as I can remember has ever told us stories like these , and they should be told ….

    1. Soundings

      I think Mick is more rose than rouge, but otherwise agree with you.

      Having said that, I don’t like politicians implying all sorts of shenanigans without providing some detail that can be scrutinised.

  6. f-mong

    Depressing to see another thread hijacked by comments about Mick’s personal appearance and business dealings rather then the quite disturbing things he is highlighting about our Gardai.

    All you FG Youthers must be still furious for how he wouldn’t lie down and take a kicking from Shatter?

  7. Kieran NYC

    Disappointing when a party goes into government and just seem to get into a bunker mentality, viewing everyone on the other side of the room as ‘the enemy’, rather than people with a different point of view.

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