Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan and Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald at the passing out ceremony for new gardaí in Templemore Garda College earlier today
From today you have full Garda powers. With such powers comes the great responsibility to use them appropriately, respecting the dignity of all persons you encounter in the course of carrying out your duties.
You have completed the first stage of what is a challenging and rigorous training programme and I congratulate you on that achievement. There is still much learning ahead of you before you are awarded your BA in Applied Police Studies.
In two weeks you will take up your assignments in Garda stations around the country. And I urge you to listen and learn from your tutors, assimilate their knowledge and experience, and use it to good effect as you serve local communities across this country.
Earlier I reminded myself of the principles of this great institution which has protected peace and security since the foundation of this State.
Honesty, accountability, respect and professionalism.
Principles are constant, they underpin everything you will do. But new ideas are the fuel that ensure these principles will continue to live and thrive and adapt to the realities of modern policing, an evolving police force, and a changing country.
So I urge you to bring your own fresh perspective and to share your ideas with your new colleagues across the Force.
The bond between An Garda Síochána and the community depends on trust and confidence. Public trust is earned by honesty, accountability, respect and professionalism. That is what the community expects from An Garda Síochána.
You will play an important role in your community and it is precisely because the service you will provide is so vital, so important to the well being of every citizen and our society as a whole, that you must ensure it is delivered to the very highest of standards.
The Report of the O’Higgins Commission of Inquiry identifies cases where standards were not met, where victims of crime were failed by An Garda Síochána.
That is as unacceptable as it is disheartening and we must take all actions open to us to ensure that these shortcomings are not repeated.
Victims must be at the heart of the Garda service.
In the past the needs of victims of crime have sometimes been overshadowed by a focus on apprehending and prosecuting perpetrators. We must ensure that our response to criminal behaviour is a comprehensive one while putting the needs of victims at the forefront.
I ask every one of you to think about what you can do to re-establish that trust and to ensure that victims of crime are well served when they come seeking your assistance and protection.
The Government is focused on bringing about improvements that will make An Garda Síochána the world class policing service that we all want it to be. To achieve this goal a number of reforms have taken place together with significant investment in resources.
Most significantly the new independent Policing Authority has been established to oversee the performance by An Garda Síochána of its functions relating to policing services. I look forward to the Authority playing an important part in the ongoing reform process.
Another important reform is in the law protecting whistleblowers. The Protected Disclosures Act 2014 ensures that there is a range of options open to those who want to report wrong doing. Now any Garda can have their complaints independently examined by the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission.
These are just two examples of important reforms that have taken place. As I have said on many occasions, there is no end to reform for any organisation. Reform is an ongoing journey of practical and cultural change that can never cease. As members, you must be open to new thinking and embrace change.
From a speech given by Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald at the passing out ceremony in Templemore earlier today.
Read the speech in full here
Previously: Maurice McCabe And The Plastic Rat