A member of the Policing Authority, an organisation tasked with overseeing the performance of the Gardai, recently shared tweets saying that Garda had “murdered” George Nkencho “with no remorse” and that Mr Nkencho had been “gunned down” by Garda, who “didn’t even try to detain him”.
Dr Vicky Conway, a Professor of Law at DCU who has been a member of the Policing Authority on two occasions, shared the tweets last week, following the death of Mr Nkencho on Wednesday.
The Policing Authority was established in 2016 to oversee the performance of the Gardai. It has wide ranging powers, regularly meets with the Garda Commissioner, and is involved with the process of appointment to senior ranks within the Garda.
Members of the Authority are required, under the Authorities Code of Ethics, to “act at all times in the public interest”. It is unclear if increasing the reach of material which makes serious, and unproven, allegations about the conduct of members of the police force, as Dr Conway did, whilst serving on the body empowered to oversee the performance of that police force, would fit within that provision.
Dr Conway herself noted the need for those in authority to be careful about the information they released into the public domain at these times, saying that she questions “the propriety of so much info being put into the public domain by gardai in such cases”. “GSOC” she says “are investigating – is it right for one party to be able to establish the narrative so immediately?”
Despite asking this question Dr Conway, a member of a statutory body intimately involved with the running of the police force, increased the reach, and potentially the impact, of material which called members of that police force “murderers”, and which directly contradicted, without evidence, police statements that they had used a graduated force response before shooting Mr Nkencho. And this was done knowing that the matter would certainly be subject to investigation by the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC).
Dr Conway’s involvement with the Authority provided an aura of respectability and expertise far beyond that of normal members of the public. Material which was shared by Dr Conway could therefore take on that aura itself, amplifying accusations which remain totally unproven. Those accusations, by their very nature, possess the ability to harm relations between the Gardai and the community.
Dr Conway is no longer a member of the Policing Authority, having finished her term shortly after sharing the tweets.
The Policing Authority told Gript that Dr Conway was not an official spokesperson for the Authority and that any views Dr Conway “may express” were her own and that they would not be commenting on matters related to the death of Mr Nkencho.
We reached out to Dr Conway on multiple occasions in order to allow her to clarify her intent in sharing the tweets and if she felt it was appropriate for someone in her position to do so but, at time of print, we had received no response. This article will be updated should we later receive a response.