Four members of the Garda Reserve are among 91 personnel who are currently on suspension from the force, while three gardaí have been on suspension for between five and eight years.
Minister for Justice Helen McEntee revealed the information in reply to parliamentary questions lodged by Junior Minister for Skills and Further Education Niall Collins and co-leader of the Social Democrats Catherine Murphy.
The Garda Representative Association (GRA) is now calling for a complete review of the current suspension policy within An Garda Síochána.
Ms McEntee said that she has been informed by Garda authorities that there is no maximum duration that a member of An Garda Síochána can be suspended for, as each case is different and has to be decided on its merits.
“Each suspension is reviewed on a regular basis for any changes in circumstances,” she said.
Some members are before the courts and are awaiting dates for trials, and therefore discipline investigations have to be put into abeyance, pending conclusion of the criminal proceedings.
“In other cases, discipline investigations are ongoing, or the case may be subject to a hearing before a board of inquiry or appeal board, which all impact on suspensions.”
GRA president Frank Thornton said, however, that the association is currently drafting a submission seeking a complete review of the current suspension policy within An Garda Síochána.
“There are incidents of members being under suspension for many years without proper explanation or consultation, which goes against their basic right to due process and natural justice,” he said.
“We are seeking an open and transparent procedures policy, as a decision to suspend a member of An Garda Síochána must be transparent, consistent, delivered clearly, and with explanation and detailed rationale.”
He added: “As employees, our members deserve to be treated with fairness, dignity, and respect.”
He conceded that the suspension of a member of the garda force “is, at times, necessary”.
But he said: “All options should be taken into account in the best interests of the public, the service, and the member concerned.
We believe that the majority of these members should be allowed to resume appropriate duties as a member of our organisation while such matters are being investigated.”
Among those on suspension are eight gardaí in Limerick, as an investigation is carried out by the National Bureau of Crime Investigation into the squaring away of traffic offences in the division. Three have had books of evidence served on them, but the other five are still waiting for a decision on their future in the force.
While gardaí do not comment on suspensions directly, the organisation’s press office says that, in general, the suspension of Garda members from duty is a statutory process governed by the Garda Síochána (Discipline) Regulations Act 2007.
However, Ms Murphy, who is also the Social Democrats’ justice spokeswoman, said that she believes that further clarity is required regarding the process of suspensions.
“Under the three disciplinary regulation heads, there are a number of options, but nowhere does it state suspension is an option, but it is clearly used as a sanction,” she said.
“In relation to the numbers of suspensions provided to me, I find it unacceptable that some officers can remain in limbo for up to best part of a decade waiting for resolution.”