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Wednesday 16 August 2017

Commissioner's leadership to remain a live issue during tribunal

Garda chief Noirin O'Sullivan
Garda chief Noirin O'Sullivan
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

Garda Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan seemed to have emerged largely unscathed from her appearance before the Policing Authority on Thursday.

It was her first appearance in front of the authority since the announcement of the Charleton tribunal.

She looked to have succeeded in getting the message across that she very much intended to stay in the hotseat at Garda HQ and would not be letting the tribunal distract her from plans to reform the culture of the force. But appearances can be deceptive and there was a sting in the tail for the commissioner yesterday.

In an interview on RTÉ radio, the authority's chairperson Josephine Feehily said it was concerned about Ms O'Sullivan's ability to fulfil the role of commissioner while the tribunal is under way.

"I would say we have a degree of confidence, but we are concerned," she said.

As endorsements go, it was less than ringing.

Ms Feehily was not suggesting the commissioner should step aside because of anything she may have done.

Instead, she raised valid concerns over the capacity of the commissioner to drive forward a huge programme of reform while also dealing with the tribunal.

At the very least, the remarks were grist to the mill of detractors who want her to step aside. The comments will also not be lost on Government, which has backed the commissioner to date.

One wonders how tenable that support would be if the police watchdog were to lose confidence in her ability to fight on both fronts.

Ms Feehily is much respected and is not prone to loose words. It was clear from what she said that the situation surrounding the leadership of the force will be monitored as the tribunal progresses.

Irish Independent

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