Comment: A moment of reckoning for the Gardai

Comment: A moment of reckoning for the Gardai

The retirement of the Garda Commissioner, Noirin O'Sullivan marks the latest chapter in what has been a thoroughly sordid saga for the Gardai.

From the events leading up to the dismissal of the previous Commissioner, Martin Callinan, through to last Sunday, it has been a terrible time for the force, with more ignonminy heaped upon them last week with the release of new figures relating to breath tests.

There is a reform programme underway in the Gardai and the opportunity now presents itself for the Government and the Gardai to draw a line under the past and begin a process of opening a new era for the force.

In her departing comments, Commissioner O'Sullivan expressed the hope that her successor would “move forward the Garda Modernisation and Renewal Programme, which will see An Garda Síochána become a beacon of 21st century policing.”

The Minister for Justice, Charlie Flanagan also said that he would press ahead with the “necessary reform programme, informed by the work of the Commission o the Future of Policing in Ireland and supported by the Policing Authority and the Garda Inspectorate.”

Central to this will the appointment, in due course, of a new Commissioner.

It's worth noting that despite all that has taken place the Gardai, by and large, continue to enjoy the goodwill of a majority of the public.

That has been earned over the many decades of service since the foundation of the State.

The establishment of An Garda Siochana was a critical part of that State and it has served the country well over the years.

Most people also indicated they have had positive experiences in dealing with individual Gardai.

In latter times there has been an enhanced Gardai visibility on the streets and roads, and no one is quibbling with that.

Indeed, quite the opposite, for most people welcome it.

The public wants the Gardai to succeed and to function effectively - afterall it is inherently in society's interests.

Out of all this should emerge a stronger police force, one that will meet the challenges of the 21st century. That's a legacy which any Government should strive for.