Gardai found to have misled Garda Ombudsman on Fees Protest Investigation
The Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) has recommended that disciplinary action should be considered against four members of An Garda Síochána, following complaints received by the Ombudsman in relation to the fees protest in 2010.
Alongside this recommendation, it has stated that An Garda Siochana mislead the Ombudsman Commission during its investigation into the incident.
During the 2010 USI protest against tuition fees, a group of approximately 2000 protesters broke away from the agreed route and gathered outside the Department of Finance on Merrion Row, while under 50 protesters gained access to the reception area of the building.
In its report about the incident the GSOC noted “systemic concerns” with delays in providing information to the commission by An Garda Síochána.
It took 111 days for the commission to receive a response from the Gardaí with protocols in place stating that this process should only take 30 days.
GSOC found that the Gardaí mislead the Ombudsman Commission when at first it stated that ‘no reports or statements have been submitted by individual Gardaí who were on duty at the protest’.
However it was later found in interviews with members of the Gardaí that statements had been made by Gardaí who policed the event.
After 634 days from the original request for the documents, the Ombudsman received a file containing over 60 statements that were made by Gardaí in relation to the incident.
The Ombudsman has directed that three further investigations be launched into potential breaches of the Garda Síochána discipline regulations.
At the time of the event the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) issued a statement condemning the break away protest, with the then President Gary Redmond saying: “The organisation is deeply disappointed at the destructive behaviour of a minority of people at the Department of Finance, which occurred separately from the USI march. We do not condone destructive behaviour and believe that peaceful protest and open discussion and debate is the way forward for the students of Ireland”.
However this evening the current president of USI Joe O’Connor has withdrawn the organisations condemnation of the protesters. The organisation has also requested a meeting with the Garda Commissioner at the earliest possible date to discuss their concerns with him.
~ Ronan Coveney