Vicky Conway, ICRN Network Member, Lecturer in Law and member of the Institute of Criminology and Criminal Justice, Queen’s University Belfast’s book on the Morris Tribunal and subsequent reforms of the Garda Síochána has been recently published by Irish Academic Press. http://www.irishacademicireland.com/catalogindex.html
Framing two men for a murder that never occurred. Orchestrating fake IRA bomb ‘finds’ either side of the border. Planting guns and drugs. False arrests, abuse of detainees, and securing false confessions. These were the institutionalized activities in the Donegal division of Siochana that were the subject of a landmark tribunal conducted by Justice Morris. In October 2008, after six years, the Morris Tribunal completed its work. Its findings catalogued corruption, negligence, misconduct, and ‘a blue wall of silence’ in an Garda Siochana, on an unprecedented scale. The reports also highlight the inadequacies of existing accountability systems that were reformed substantially mid-way through the work of the Tribunal, by the Garda Siochana Act 2005. The findings and recommendations of the Tribunal are particularly striking in a country where public confidence in the police has historically been exceptionally high, and criticisms of the police slow to be aired. The Blue Wall of Silence questions what contribution the Tribunal has made to the accountability of the Garda Siochana, asking not just whether it has held the Gardai involved to account, but also what impact it has had on both the accountability apparatus and broader public and political attitudes towards an Garda Siochana. Has the Tribunal fundamentally altered perceptions of the Irish police or has its work been dismissed as a blip caused by a few rotten apples? Justice Morris warned that, without substantial reform, the activities documented could reoccur elsewhere in Ireland. Has a sufficient level of reform been achieved? In addressing these questions, the book makes a substantial contribution to national and international debates on police accountability, raising within democratic societies the crucial relationships between official inquiries, policy reform, and police governance.
The publication of this book marks an important contribution to the study of the Irish criminal justice system, particularly in the context of reforms that have sought to provide the assurance of greater oversight and accountability of policing in the Republic of Ireland. The cultural context of the operation of the criminal justice system, an arguably neglected area, is explored in this analysis of the relationship of the Gardaí with wider Irish society.