Friday 28 April 2017

Commissioner will hold crisis meeting after trip to the US

Garda Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan Picture: Gerry Mooney
Garda Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan Picture: Gerry Mooney

Niall O'Connor, Philip Ryan and Tom Brady

Embattled Garda Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan will today meet with senior Garda management for the first time since she decided to spend several days at a US conference as strike action loomed.

Commissioner O'Sullivan has been widely criticised after she travelled to San Diego for a policing conference despite the upcoming industrial action.

It is understood the delegation stayed at the four-star Omni San Diego Hotel.

The Commissioner flew back to Dublin yesterday along with a Garda delegation which included her husband, Chief Superintendent Jim McGowan.

She will today meet her deputy and assistant commissioners at Garda headquarters as members of the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI) withdraw from Pulse duties for 12 hours. Pulse is the Garda computer system.

While most records are input by rank-and-file gardaí, sergeants and inspectors review the records - an action they will refrain from today.

The discussion is likely to touch on the serious concern over the failure to devise contingency plans in the event of strike action and concerns that Garda management should have arranged a meeting with the AGSI leadership much sooner.

AGSI president Antoinette Cunningham yesterday said that her union has had no contact with Garda HQ since announcing its industrial action, the first phase of which begins at 7am today.

Read More: Analysis: Whichever way you spin it, this looks bad for O'Sullivan

It's understood Commissioner O'Sullivan's crisis meeting with her inner circle was originally due to be held in Galway, but was relocated to Dublin.

Fine Gael TD for Wexford Michael D'Arcy accused her of "sunning herself in San Diego" and embarking on a "junket" after it emerged she spent several days in the Californian city this week.

There is also growing unease within Fianna Fáil over the Commissioner's handling of the industrial unrest among AGSI members and the Garda Representative Association (GRA), which represents rank-and-file gardaí.

Fianna Fáil's finance spokesperson Michael McGrath said he believed Ms O'Sullivan's absence from the country this week was an error of judgment.

Speaking privately, one senior Fianna Fáil figure said the move showed that the Commissioner was "completely out of touch".

The source also noted that if the outcome of the review into allegations of a smear campaign against Garda whistleblowers criticises the Commissioner or other senior members of the force, there may have to be a "sacrificial head".

Unease

The news comes as Tánaiste and Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald once again backed her embattled Commissioner.

A spokesman for Ms Fitzgerald said decisions as to the Commissioner's fulfilment of any "international obligations" were entirely a matter for her.

"In the circumstances it would not be appropriate to comment on any instances of particular business abroad undertaken by her. There has, of course, been no question of any absence by the Commissioner abroad impinging in any way on the performance of the full range of her functions, both domestic and international," the spokesman added.

"There are long-established procedures in place for notification to the Department of proposed absences on official duty."

Sources close to the force voiced deep unease over the Commissioner's absence.

Several of those sources told the Irish Independent that the Commissioner should have sent an assistant or deputy commissioner to San Diego due to the looming strike.

The conference involved senior police officers and FBI agents giving presentations on issues ranging from drugs to gun crime. Commissioner O'Sullivan addressed the delegates.

She was accompanied by, head of the Garda Inspectorate Robert Olson, Chief Supt Michael O'Sullivan and her husband Chief Supt McGowan.

The entire delegation travelled in a professional capacity.

Irish Independent

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