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Friday 22 September 2017

Garda training college financial mismanagement 'completely unacceptable'– Justice Minister

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald. Photo: Kyran O'Brien
Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald. Photo: Kyran O'Brien
John Downing

John Downing

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald has defended a decision by Garda Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan not to accept legal advice and tell the Minister about financial problems at the Garda Training College.

Ms Fitzgerald said revelations about financial abuses at the college in Templemore were “very serious and completely unacceptable.” But she said everybody must wait until the issues are examined by the Dáil Public Accounts Committee (PAC) and the Policing Authority.

Frances Fitzgerald was speaking at an official sod-turning to start construction on a €60m new forensic science laboratory for Forensic Science Ireland at Backweston, near Celbridge, Co Kildare. Photo: Mark Condren
Frances Fitzgerald was speaking at an official sod-turning to start construction on a €60m new forensic science laboratory for Forensic Science Ireland at Backweston, near Celbridge, Co Kildare. Photo: Mark Condren

The Justice Minister was asked about further revelations that the Commissioner did not act on legal advice and tell the Minister about the financial irregularities as soon as possible. Ms Fitzgerald said this was a judgement call by Commissioner O’Sullivan.

“The Garda Commissioner has to make decisions on a daily basis on a whole range of operational matters and she gets legal advice on many issues. Whether, at any given time, she decides to make a referral is, at the end of the day, her decision,” Ms Fitzgerald told reporters.

The Minister was speaking at an official sod-turning to start construction on a €60m new forensic science laboratory for Forensic Science Ireland at Backweston, near Celbridge, Co Kildare.

Ms Fitzgerald condemned the financial revelations surrounding the Templemore College but she reiterated her confidence in Commissioner O’Sullivan.

The Minister said the Commissioner was bringing in badly-needed garda reforms and also said this was why there will a Commission to completely examine all aspects of the force.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin told the Dáil today that the latest garda scandal “is stretching the credibility of the force to its very limit and the Government’s as well”.

He said Taoiseach Enda Kenny is “trying to wash this thing away day after day, week after week”.

“Do you not get it Taoiseach? The thing is completely untenable,” Mr Martin said.

“Over the last number of years, unfortunately, the force has been mired in scandal and debacle, lowering morale and confidence within the force. 

“We have had the whistleblowers' stories, the penalty points, the malpractice, the phone recordings, the GSOC bugging, the 1 million fake breathalyser tests and, of course, the fixed charge notices which resulted in many thousands of people being wrongly charged.  Now, we have had very damning revelations pertaining to Templemore Garda College and the whole area around the 42 bank accounts and the complete breach of procedures, of law and of accountability, which is an extraordinary story in itself,” he said.

Mr Martin said the revelations in the past 24 hours from the civilian director of human resources in An Garda Siochana, John Barrett, are “particularly damning in regard to the culture that has protected this edifice for so long and the inaction of the senior management of An Garda Síochána, including the Garda Commissioner, in regard to dealing with this issue in a transparent, accountable and effective way”.

In response, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said the Dáil’s Public Accounts Committee was carrying out a probe into the Templemore controversy and should be allowed to conclude its work.

“I have faith and every confidence in the Garda Commissioner to do her job,” he said.

Mr Kenny said Noirin O’Sullivan was taking action.

“She is the Commissioner in-situ at the time of the greatest garda reform in the history of the State,” he said.

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