TD claims ongoing garda suspensions are like witch trials
Ali Bracken 9 hrs ago
The ongoing suspensions of eight gardaí in Limerick, as part of an extensive corruption probe, has been described as a “witch trial” in Dáil Éireann.
In an extraordinary intervention, two TDs launched a searing criticism of the live garda investigation, which is being led by the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation (NBCI).
The probe is examining the alleged “squaring” of tickets for road traffic offences.
The eight gardaí have been suspended since November 8, 2020.
Three gardaí and a retired superintendent have already been charged in connection with the NBCI investigation.
The ongoing suspensions of the eight members has led to “widespread fear and confusion among gardaí”, Fianna Fáil TD Cathal Crowe told the Dáil last week.
He went on to compare the ongoing investigation at Limerick Garda Division to the Salem witch trials, which saw 20 people executed in the Massachusetts town in the 1690s.
“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,” he 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.
“We are talking about putting more gardaí on the streets — but we have taken a lot off the streets.
“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.”
The Fianna Fáil deputy also criticised Garda Commissioner Drew Harris’s style of policing, adding: “Drew Harris is a good man, but the model of policing he is seeking to replicate is that which operates in the six counties of Northern Ireland. It is quite a different model.
“The police there drive down roads at night in armoured vehicles and are armed.
“It is very different to the model of policing we have in Ireland, where the gardaí come into schools, are involved in local clubs, and are enmeshed in our communities… We are in a rat race and going the wrong way with all of this.”
Independent Limerick TD Richard O’Donoghue also criticised the ongoing investigation during the same Dáil debate on Thursday.
He said gardaí were told during training at Templemore Garda College that officers can “square” a ticket in some circumstances.
He said: “Do gardaí have discretion in hardship cases anymore? 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 garda 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?”
In July, the leader of the Garda Representative Association (GRA), said it was “fully supportive of its members during this investigation”.
GRA president Frank Thornton said: “We fully respect that there is due process and as such it will be inappropriate to discuss or comment of any matters that are before the courts — however, we intend to do so in due course.”