Final Report On O'Higgins Commission Published

The final report of the Commission of Investigation on the O'Higgins Commission has been published by the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality, Frances Fitzgerald.

Following the publication, Minister Fitzgerald immediately referred the report to the Attorney General and is understood to have been advised, in line with the provisions of Section 38 of the Commission of Investigation Act 2004, to undertake a process to establish whether there was anything in the report which might prejudice criminal proceedings pending or in progress.

It involved consultation with the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission and An Garda Síochána. It was only possible to conclude the process on Tuesday afternoon, and having established the issue of prejudice does not arise, the Minister presented the report to Government on Wednesday morning and is now in a position to publish it.

The Minister said: "The Commission of Investigation, using the wide range of statutory powers available to it, has now established, as definitively as it is possible to do, the facts surrounding the difficult matters it was asked to examine. Mr Justice O'Higgins has produced a thorough and thoughtful report which deserves the most careful consideration so that we can do everything possible to avoid a repeat of the issues which gave rise to the Commission of Investigation in the first place."

Minister Fitzgerald said that whatever controversies might have surrounded issues dealt with in the report it was important not to "lose sight of one central and unpalatable fact: the report identifies a number of cases where victims of crime were not well served by An Garda Síochána".

"That is as unacceptable as it is disheartening and we must take all measures open to us to ensure that these shortcomings are not repeated," he added.

"Inevitably, Mr Justice O'Higgins reaches a number of conclusions about the roles played by a number of persons in the events outlined in his report. I hope all those affected can accept, as I do fully, that Mr Justice O'Higgins looked at the facts fairly and dispassionately and made every effort to do justice to the position of all.

"I hope there can be general agreement too that what is important now is that the report is considered carefully in its totality and that we learn whatever lessons we can from it, particularly in the context of maintaining the high level of confidence which the community have in An Garda Síochána.

"Some of the events investigated by Mr Justice O’Higgins go back almost a decade. For my own part, I believe that it is abundantly clear that the system we had in place up to a couple of years ago to deal with reports of wrongdoing within the Force by members of it served no-one particularly well: not the people making the reports, not the people the subject of those reports, not the Garda Síochána and, above all, not the public. This situation has been significantly transformed in a number of respects. In particular, the Protected Disclosures Act 2014, which was part of the previous Government's comprehensive approach to enhance the protection available to whistleblowers, provides a new mechanism for disclosures relating to An Garda Síochána. Now, a Garda member may make a protected disclosure to the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission, a statutorily independent body with a comprehensive range of powers available to it, which, if it believes it is in the public interest to do so, may investigate such a complaint

Furthermore, there has been an unprecedented programme of Garda reform which, having had the honour of being reappointed as Minister for Justice and Equality, I am determined to continue to progress.

"For all those changes which have taken place or are under way, it is important that we look specifically at what the report by Mr Justice O'Higgins has to say. In this regard, I am asking the Garda Commissioner to examine the report and to indicate to me what further measures might be taken to try to prevent the type of difficulties outlined in it in relation to An Garda Síochána arising again. I am also seeking her proposals concerning the recommendations which it contains in relation to the Garda service. And I am forwarding a copy of the report to the Policing Authority in the context of its statutory role in relation to oversight of An Garda Síochána.

"I very much appreciate that the events outlined in the report have been traumatic for many people who have been affected by them. It would be an injustice to those who brought events to light in the public interest and those who have lived under the shadow of these events for a long time, if we do not take on board the lessons from these events. I hope they can take some reassurance from the fact that the examination of those events in this report will help serve to consolidate a programme of reform which will ensure we continue to have a Garda Síochána in which its members and the community it serves can take great pride."


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