Good police work involves gardai using their own discretion, including “squaring” minor prosecutions for members of the public, who gardai may depend on when investigating more serious crimes, a former Garda has claimed.
Fianna Fáil Councillor Kevin Sheahan, who previously provided protected for President Eamon De Valera, told a Joint Policing Committee (JPC) in Limerick that, “squaring speeding cases” is “often done” as part of fostering and maintaining a good relationship between Gardaí and the public they serve and depend.
Cllr Sheahan, who was elected the first Cathaoirleach of the joint city and county authority in 2014, added that, Gardaí “can’t afford, as a police force, to have much more anti-guard attitude out there, among decent people”.
“The other (thing) is, the speeding and the breathalysing, and the nonsense on the paper last week, and I’ll call it nonsense, about the members of the Garda Síochána, squaring speeding cases. That’s often done to keep a good relationship between a member of the Garda Síochána and certain members of the public, who are only too willing then, when the time comes, to help and cooperate with the Garda Síochána, to make an investigation a success.”
“But, a police force has to, they have to do that kind of thing.”
“That should not be investigated,” he continued.
“If it is investigated, they should find that, it’s a positive thing for a policeman to square a case for somebody, if it is a minor case especially, to win the citizen’s friendship, loyalty, and commitment.”
Cllr Sheahan said gardai have “limited resources”, and that, the public are their eyes and ears on the ground.
He said he was merely “echoing what I’m hearing” among the general public.
“I’m going to say this, because the public are saying it. Time and time again, and rightly so, (gardai) appeal on a national basis for the public to cooperate with the Garda Síochána, and, (gardai) cannot be successful without the help of the public.”
Cllr Sheahan added: “Too many resources have been poured into stopping people going to work in the morning and breathalysing them, and that’s the one that hurts a lot of the law abiding citizens. Basically they’re good people, and they become anti-guard.”
Cllr Sheahan’s comments drew the ire of several more JPC members, who asked the newly elected chairperson, Fine Gael Cllr Adam Teskey, to record on the record that they did not want to be associated with Cllr Sheahan’s remarks.
“Speak for yourself, in fairness,” Sinn Fein TD, Maurice Quinlivan said adddressing Mr Sheehan.
Non party member Emmet O’Brien, asked “is that the Fianna Fáil position”, while Fine Gael councillor Stephen Keary interjected, “I do not agree with giving Home Rule to any individual member of An Garda Siochana”.
When asked afterwards for his reaction to Cllr Sheahan’s remarks, Fianna Fáil TD, Niall Collins, who had also attended the meeting, replied: “Everybody is equal before the law. If An Garda Síochána wish to exercise discretion within the confines of the law, that is a matter for An Garda Síochána.”