Garda Ombudsman: office introduced by Michael McDowell in 2007

Behind-the-scenes talks to repair the "distrustful and fraught relationship" between gardaí and the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) have taken place amid high hopes that a new era of "respect and understanding" will now begin.

GSOC is an independent body, that investigates complaints against members of the force by the public and attends crime scenes where gardaí use firearms or someone loses their life in a garda pursuit or investigation. It became operational in May 2007 and replaced the Garda Complaints Board, which was seen as flawed as it was not independent of the force.

Since it was set up in May 2007, the relationship between the ombudsman's office and the gardaí has been turbulent.

However, the Sunday Tribune understands that a recent meeting between garda representatives and members of GSOC to discuss their "differences" resulted in a "positive conversation and hopefully a new understanding".

"Problems on both sides were admitted," said a garda source. "We have now tried to set in train a new process and hopefully this will iron out our differences and we won't be at odds with each other too much in the future. It's about people settling into their new roles. We now have a better understanding of where they're coming from and vice-versa. We believe the relationship will improve."

There have been several public spats between the two groups. Last year, Michael O'Boyce, president of the Garda Representative
Asso­ciation (GRA) mounted a stinging attack on the ombudsman's methods at its annual conference, claiming the commission had "excelled itself in its blundering incompetence".

In particular, O'Boyce criticised the ombudsman's office over the search of a garda's locker in Limerick's Roxboro Road station, during which evidence was allegedly damaged. At the time a GSOC spokesman hit back at the comments.

"I'm amused by Michael O'Boyce's comments," said the spokesman. "I think it sets a very unfortunate tone for his tenure as president of the GRA. Michael knows full well that neither he nor I are, for legal reasons, able to discuss ongoing criminal investigations in any kind of detail in public. To suggest that evidence was tampered with in a manner that wasn't appropriate is not appropriate in my opinion."

Gardaí were also unhappy about a GSOC investigation into the death of a Dublin detective in 2007. The garda shot himself in the head and some officers complained that the ombudsman's investigators immediately tried to "take control of the crime scene".