ICSA president Patrick Kent has warned that Minister Coveney’s announcement today of a new Investigation Division is premature.
“The Minister’s first action should be to disband the Special Investigations Unit (SIU),” said Mr. Kent. “He then needs to thoroughly investigate where it all went wrong, and publish his findings. Only then should he consider how to deal with such issues in the future, and obviously it would be completely unacceptable to have any further involvement of any personnel associated with the former SIU. Among other things, questions need to be answered regarding the amount of time, resources and money that were wasted on pursuing one single live exporter of cattle compared to the investigation of the horsemeat scandal, which has not led to any prosecutions or significant action against the people responsible.”
The Minister for Agriculture, announced a restructuring of the investigations capability of the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine as part of an on-going modernisation of the structures of his Department and as part of the wider public service reform process .
The new arrangement brings all investigation capability, both internal and external, into one Division. It is headed by a Senior Superintending Veterinary Officer, supported by a team of investigators, some of whom are core members of the team and others to be drawn from areas where their expertise will be beneficial to the conduct of particular types of investigations.
The ICSA President said: “The Minister has yet to explain how exactly this new unit will be any better than its predecessor,” continued Mr. Kent. “ICSA firmly believes that where there are alleged instances of serious wrong-doing which could potentially lead to criminal proceedings, or where proposed penalties could cause severe financial hardship, such cases should be referred to the Garda Síochána, who have the experience and expertise to deal with them appropriately. At a very minimum, all on-farm investigations should be led by the Gardaí. The Department’s investigative services have been completely discredited by recent events, whereas the competence and judgement of the Gardaí is rightly respected by farmers and the wider community. Furthermore, any internal investigations carried out by the Department must also be subject to monitoring by the Farmers’ Charter Committee.”
“In addition to establishing and publishing the findings of an investigation into the failings of the SIU, the Minister must also disclose to the Dáil the full cost to the taxpayer of the various settlements made in cases involving the unit, including the Fannin and Fleury cases.”