Tuesday 26 September 2017

Breath test scandal: 'Further revelations' may be down the line as Garda Commissioner vows she won't step down

  • Noirin O'Sullivan promises 'real cultural reform'
  • Enda Kenny has confidence in Garda Commissioner
  • Fianna Fáil 'not reassured' by today's events
Garda Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan at Garda HQ Photo: Mark Condren
Garda Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan at Garda HQ Photo: Mark Condren

Kevin Doyle and Amy Molloy

THE Garda Commissioner has said she won't step down in the wake of the latest controversy to hit the force, and added that a review into the breath-testing scandal will take three months.

Noirin O'Sullivan has promised "real cultural reform" but warned that it won't be easy and will take time.

Speaking on RTÉ's Six One news, Ms O'Sullivan said: "I have a huge commitment to the programme of reform that I have committed to undertake. It is working and it will continue. Not everyone is going to like it and we are going to have some serious push back but it takes determination, it takes commitment and courage to make sure it happens."

When asked about the possibility of further revelations coming down the line in relation to road checkpoints, she responded: "What we have done as well as appointing an assistant commissioner to investigate who did what and where it happened, we have also asked our internal  audit unit to look at those processes and make sure they are rigorous, they are robust and they are reliable.

"We also wrote to the policing authority and asked the garda inspectorate to review  the corrective measures that we have put in place. I hope those issues combined with our own challenging of our processes will provide some confidence to the public."

She also apologised to those who have been affected, saying it was a combination of "human error and systems error".

"It is a systems error in so far as it shouldn't have been possible to issue the summons. I think we have to look at what was the cause of that...There is no getting away from the fact we had gone through a very significant downturn, it's not an excuse, but it is a fact."

Earlier, at a press conference in Garda Headquarters in the Phoenix Park on Monday evening, the Garda Commissioner indicated that she will remain in her post even if the Dail votes no confidence in her next week.

“I have a journey of work that I have to do and I have to make sure I see through that commitment,” she said, referring to the reform of An Garda Siochana which she has overseen since 2014.

The latest controversy centres on breath testing.

It was revealed last week that 14,700 people were wrongly convicted of motoring offences, and that the number of breathalyser tests given over a number of years were exaggerated by a staggering one million.

The garda chief said today the errors were "countrywide" and the "integrity of An Garda Siochana is on the line". She added that there will be a "radical restructuring" of road policing as a result of the issues with the fixed charge penalty system which were identified a number of years ago.

Gardai are working with the Court Services to have 14,700 motoring convictions set aside, she said.

The force is to set up a dedicated helpline for anyone who thinks they may have been wrongly brought to court for motoring offences.

Meanwhile, Gardaí "categorically" deny releasing details of two scandals on same day as McGuinness funeral in order to try bury bad news.

Earlier, Enda Kenny said he has confidence in Commissioner O'Sullivan but insists that she needs to set out all the facts of the latest scandal.

Speaking to RTÉ radio the Taoiseach confirmed that the Commissioner met with the Tanaiste and Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald.

Mr Kenny told reporters this morning: "As I am speaking here in Tralee there is a meeting on with the Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald and the Commissioner of the gardaí.

"And I do expect that the Commissioner will outline for the Minister for Justice the facts as can be put in the public domain and the facts as are available to her.

"This is a very important matter and the Minister for Justice will talk to me later in the day and the government will consider this tomorrow.

"I have confidence in the Commissioner but it's an opportunity for the Commissioner to set out all of the facts relevant to these particular problems which are very serious," he said.

It is understood that the Tanaiste did not ask the Commissioner to resign during the meeting.

Response

Meanwhile, Fianna Fáil said they are “not reassured” by the sequences of events described by the Garda Commissioner today.

And the main Opposition party are turning the heat back on Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald who they believe needs to make an urgent public statement.

Their justice spokesman Jim O’Callaghan said has written to the Ceann Comhairle of the Dáil seeking the appearance of the Ms Fitzgerald tomorrow in order to get answers on the unfolding Garda crisis.

“While my colleagues and I will need to study the content of the Garda Commissioner’s comments today, it is clear that many crucial questions remain unanswered.

“We are not reassured by what was said and in particular we are concerned at the description of the failure to notify the Policing Authority as 'an administrative error’,” Mr O’Callaghan said.

“However, a number of elements of today’s press conference make it clear that the Tánaiste also has questions to answer on this.

“To date, the Tánaiste’s response has consisted mainly of concerned noises and much hand wringing.

“It took five days from the announcement of this crisis until the Tánaiste met with the Commissioner.

“That isn’t good enough – we need to know exactly what the Tánaiste knew and when she knew it and all the issues that flow from that need to be fully examined,” he said.

The Fianna Fáil front bench will discuss the matter further tomorrow.

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