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Questions to be asked after bicycle suspension, says GRA

The association that represents rank and file gardaí has said there are serious questions to be asked about the operation of disciplinary and suspension procedures in An Garda Síochána.

The Garda Representative Association (GRA) has expressed its concerns in light of the case of a garda stationed in the midlands who was suspended for three years after he provided an elderly man with an unclaimed bicycle for transport during the pandemic.

Last week, a board of inquiry cleared the garda at the centre of the case of any wrongdoing and its findings must now be forwarded to the Garda Commissioner for consideration.

GRA president Brendan O’Connor has said the garda at the centre of the bicycle case is back working but on restricted duties as the process is still technically ongoing.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, he said that the length of suspension in that instance is not unusual.

“Unfortunately, it is a very common occurrence. We see it across the organisation, and we have a significant number of members languishing on suspension, some of whom are in the same situation, who have no prosecution against them, have no criminal case to answer and the organisation is very slow to remove this,” said Mr O’Connor.

He said the suspension is subject to renewal every six months but “one of the issues we, as an association, have is the lack of transparency and we believe that that opportunity every six months should be a chance for an input or submission, or to see what is happening. Why is there a delay?”

Mr O’Connor said: “What there has to be is the basic principles of fair procedure, transparency and accountability and ethics – something that our members are expected to underpin their decision-making in everything they do – should be reflected in organisational policy and how we treat our members.”

“We’re not saying the guards shouldn’t be suspended … but whenever the public look at what this guard was suspended for, the circumstances surrounding it, there is serious questions to be asked about how the discipline and the culture of discipline is being applied within the organisation and the effect it’s having and the chill it’s placing between guards and the communities they serve,” added Mr O’Connor.

Read more: Operation Flann O’Brien: The garda, the bicycle and the three-year suspension

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