Internal dissent will be embraced, says garda chief
Published 05/04/2014 | 02:30
GARDAI will embrace whistleblowers and become more tolerant towards internal dissent in future, according to the Interim Commissioner, Noirin O'Sullivan.
In a ground-breaking address setting out her policy for the force, she said gardai would be working hard on changing the mindset so that they did not view dissent as disloyalty.
Instead, she said, it must be seen as an opportunity to improve what they were already good at doing.
The Interim Commissioner also moved to draw a line under the recent penalty point controversy involving her predecessor, Martin Callinan.
Ms O'Sullivan said that the description of the behaviour of the whistleblowers as disgusting was "unfortunate".
She said that Mr Callinan had a particular opinion on that matter, and he was entitled to that opinion.
But she promised a new era of openness to outside help, even if that help came in the form of complaints or criticism.
She said the position of whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe, whose access to the Pulse computer system was currently restricted, was under review.
Ms O'Sullivan made her first public appearance since becoming interim commissioner when she addressed 79 Reserve force graduates yesterday at a ceremony at the Garda College in Templemore.
And in doing so, she threw down a marker and set out her stall to take over the force's top job.
Justice Minister Alan Shatter had also been due to attend but pulled out, stating he had to deal with a backlog of work that had built up because of the controversies of the past few weeks.
Ms O'Sullivan has also sent a letter to each member of the garda organisation, telling them that it was critical to learn from mistakes and take appropriate action to ensure they did not happen again.
"It is important that people feel they can raise issues of concern or where they feel improvements can be made, and when they do, that we listen to them and support them.
"This will make An Garda Siochana a stronger and better organisation," she wrote.
"We need to demonstrate a stronger commitment to openness and transparency, strengthen our governance structures, and further improve accountability," she added.
Ms O'Sullivan and her management team will visit garda districts and divisions throughout the country over the coming months to listen to members' "thoughts, concerns and ideas".
She told the new Reserve graduates yesterday that they might be called upon to show great physical courage when they took to the streets.
"But be in no doubt," she warned, "you will be called on to show moral courage, in dozens of small, unspectacular ways.
"You'll need the courage to stand up to any consensus that's easy, appealing – and wrong.
"You'll need the courage to question, even when questioning irritates and infuriates people who can influence your future.
"Because that's what a good guard does. They respond to emerging situations. They know it's not just about compliance, it's also about commitment."
She told them the public trust had to be won, and the imperative was to control the reflex that made human beings want to push back against criticism.
Meanwhile, it emerged last night that Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte is to be the fourth minister to form part of the Cabinet Justice sub-committee, which will oversee Mr Shatter's work programme.
The new committee will also involve the Attorney General, Maire Whelan – a move that is seen as a further concession to the Labour Party.