Respected policing expert says Gardaí are engaging in political campaign

An internationally-respected expert on police accountability has said she was “appalled” to learn of Garda involvement in events pushing a ‘yes’ vote in the coming marriage referendum.   Baroness Nuala O’Loan, who between 2000 and 2007 was the first ombudsman for the Police Service of Northern Ireland, and who has advised on police accountability in countries as diverse as Canada, India, Brazil, and South Africa, told The Irish Catholic newspaper that “The police are supposed to be independent. Trust in them is dependent on that independence. This should not have happened.”   Responding to a recent piece in Garda Review by P.J. Stone, General Secretary of the Garda Representative Association, in which Mr Stone called on Gardaí to vote for marriage redefinition, Baroness O’Loan said: “Gardaí are not appointed to engage in political campaigns. That is what is going on here.”   “How can the public be expected to view them as impartial protectors of the law if they behave in this way,” she asked, adding, “They are representative of the State, and hence must remain apolitical during a referendum, I would argue.”   > They are representative of the State, and hence must remain apolitical during a referendum

In his article, Mr Stone attributed to bigotry opposition to a ‘yes’ vote, declared that without marriage redefinition Ireland was not ‘a real republic’, and assured Gardaí committed to campaigning for a ‘yes’ vote of the GRA leadership’s full support.   The article attempted to justify the GRA leadership’s unprecedented intervention by saying “this is the first time we have had the opportunity to recommend equality of our members as constitutional reform”.   Baroness O’Loan rejected this, saying, “Clearly the GRA are engaging in political action here, not representing their member’s interests in matters of welfare and efficiency,” pointing out that under the terms of the Garda Síochána Act 2005, the GRA’s role is carefully limited.   Lobbying for political purposes is not, she said, among the functions of the Garda Síochána.   It is true that under section 7 of the act, the Garda Síochána has a role in “vindicating the human rights of each individual”, but “there is no human right in law, international or European, to gay marriage”, according to the baroness, who in 2009 chaired a formal investigation into human rights in England and Wales for the UK Equality and Human Rights Commission.