GSOC Welcomes Transposition of EU Whistleblowers’ Directive into Irish Law
The Protected Disclosures (Amendment) Act 2022, signed into law by President Higgins, brings Ireland fully in line with the EU Whistleblowers’ Directive (1937/2019), in force since December 2021.
Press release – Friday, 22 July 2022
The Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) welcomes the full transposition of the EU Whistleblowers’ Directive with the signing into law by President Higgins of the Protected Disclosures (Amendment) Act 2022.
The EU Whistle-blowers Directive (1937/2019) places an obligation on all EU Member States to legislate for a clear set of standards to permit whistleblowing and protected disclosures by employees, as well as protections for those who come forward.
The Protected Disclosures (Amendment) Act 2022 transposes these obligations directly into Irish law, and includes the establishment of a new Office of the Protected Disclosures Commissioner, which will form part of the function of the Office of the Ombudsman.
GSOC, as part of Ireland’s policing oversight infrastructure, has a role in receiving protected disclosures from workers in An Garda Siochána, and will be subject to the provisions of this new legislation.
GSOC engaged extensively with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform on the transposition process, including thorough provision on views on the draft bill and by way of submission to the Oireachtas Joint Committee.
Since 2019, GSOC, in the context of its protected disclosures remit, has been a member of the Network of European Integrity and Whistleblowing Authorities (NEIWA), working to explore the challenges and opportunities faced by network members in ensuring the Directive’s effective transposition into domestic law. GSOC intends to continue to work with NEIWA as the Directive is implemented, to share learnings from across member states.
NOTES TO EDITOR
The EU Whistle-blowers Directive (1937/2019) places an obligation on all EU Member States to legislate for a clear set of standards to permit whistleblowing and protected disclosures by employees, as well as protections for those who come forward. The Directive came into force on 17 December 2021.
Available at https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/en/TXT/?uri=CELEX%3A32019L1937
Key elements of the directive include:
- From its entry into force, companies and public bodies with 250 or more employees will have to implement an internal reporting system available to all employees. From 2023, this will reduce to companies and public bodies with 50 or more employees.
- Disclosures include: breaches of EU Law in areas of procurement, finance, safety, compliance, environmental protection, food safety, public health, privacy and data, information security, competition law, and other areas.
- The directive provides that whistle-blowers will be protected from dismissal.
- Member States must establish clear procedures and reporting channels in domestic law to ensure the provisions of the directive are met, and that all the protections are provided for.
- Member states must also put into place effective sanctions for failure to adhere to the directive’s standards, or failure to protect whistle-blowers.
- A useful overview of the Directive is available HERE.
Transposition of the Directive into Irish Law
The Directive was transposed into Irish Law by way of the Protected Disclosures (Amendment) Act 2022, which was signed into law on 21 July 2022.
A core provision of the Bill is the proposed establishment of a new Office of the Protected Disclosures Commissioner, within Office of the Ombudsman.
President Higgins press release is available to view HERE
GSOC and Protected Disclosures
GSOC, as part of Ireland’s policing oversight infrastructure, has a role in receiving protected disclosures from workers in An Garda Siochána under the Protected Disclosures Act 2014. GSOC is also subject to the provisions of protected disclosures legislation with respect to its own employees.
GSOC will now be subject to the provisions of this new legislation, which amends the 2014 Act to bring it in line with the EU Whistleblowers’ Directive.
GSOC reports annually on the receipt of protected disclosures, in line with its statutory obligations. The 2021 Protected Disclosures annual reports (internal and external), are available HERE.
The Network of European Integrity and Whistleblowing Authorities (NEIWA)
The Network of European Integrity and Whistleblowing Authorities (NEIWA) was established in the Spring of 2019 by a number of organisations across Europe with a role in receiving and investigating complaints and protected disclosures from whistle-blowers.
Member institutions must have a range of statutory powers in their jurisdictions, including the ability to receive disclosures, decide if they contain relevant wrongdoing, investigate matters of criminal and or disciplinary nature, report on matters to prosecutors, be involved the prosecution of matters in a legal environment and make observations on findings.
GSOC, in the context of its protected disclosures remit under the Protected Disclosures Act 2014, was one of the Network’s nine initial members. The Network has since expanded to a membership of 30 institutions from 22 EU member states. The Office of the Ombudsman in Ireland is NEIWA’s newest member, which has joined in recognition of its new function of ‘Office of the Protected Disclosures Commissioner’ under the new legislation.
The Network is currently administered in the Netherlands by Dutch network member ‘Huis voor Klokkenluiders’ (the House of Whistleblowers). See their website HERE.
The focus of the network to date has been the EU Whistle-blowers Directive (1937/2019), and the challenges and opportunities faced by network members in ensuring its effective transposition into domestic law.
NEIWA meets four times a year with two formal meetings and two informal.
Following its recent meetings, the Network has issued various declarations and statements highlighting some of the core requirements for the effective implementation of the Directive at member state level.
For its Brussels Declaration of 18 December 2020, see HERE.
For its declaration of 17 September 2021, which focussed on the approaching 17 December transposition deadline, see HERE.
For its Dublin Declaration published on 17 December 2021, see HERE
For its Barcelona Declaration published on 24 June 2022, see HERE
NEIWA as a body interacts with the EU on the transposition of the Directive and also shares information and learning about the challenges faced in member states on implementing the Directive. Progress on Transposition has been slow to date, with most Member States not transposing their directives. NEIWA will therefore continue to engage at international and domestic level to advocate for the swift incorporation of the Directive into domestic law, and to raise awareness and understanding of the requirements of the new Directive, which came into effect on 17 December 2021.
It is the intention of NEIWA to further expand in the coming years as the Directive is implemented, and to continue to share learnings from member States, which will assist not only in Transposition, but in ongoing periodic review of member states’ legislative frameworks on whistle blowing. With a view to this, NEIWA have engaged with the EU on funding for the creation of a knowledge hub.