Minister: Garda reputation is damaged amid serious questions for management
Independent minister Seán Canney says the reputation of gardaí is "being damaged" amid "serious questions" about how the force is being managed.
The Independent Alliance is to meet this week to discuss whether it can continue to support Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan to stay on in the role amid mounting calls from the opposition for her to go.
Mr Canney said he is confident Ms O'Sullivan is trying to reform the force - but he expressed concern over issues that have dogged gardaí. These include almost one million bogus breath tests recorded by gardaí and the controversy over finances at the Templemore Training College.
He said Ms O'Sullivan needs to provide answers in issues affecting the force.
Mr Canney's colleague in the ranks of junior ministers, John Halligan, was quoted at the weekend saying that his own view is he can't see "how she can keep going" due to the series of crises to hit the force.
However, that view is not universally shared in the Alliance. Finian McGrath, another junior minister, told RTÉ that he has "absolute confidence" in Ms O'Sullivan.
Referring to the planned meeting of the Independent Alliance, he said there is regular internal debate between the five TDs, but that they agree on a clear objective: "We want to reform the Garda."
Mr Canney told this newspaper he doesn't know what would be achieved by Ms O'Sullivan going now. But he said his main concern is "the Garda reputation is being damaged".
He added: "The worry I have is that if a country, if the public lose confidence in your Garda force, you are in trouble." Mr Canney said the issues are broader than Ms O'Sullivan's role alone and he has "serious questions" about how the force is being managed.
"The Garda as a brand needs to correct the image and make sure... that there are role models at management level so that the respect that they should have is maintained and is restored," he said. He was speaking in an interview with the Irish Independent as controversy swirled over the financial irregularities at Templemore Training College. The Dáil's Public Accounts Committee is probing the college after an interim report by the internal Garda audit unit found it had more than 40 bank accounts.
Some were used for purposes other than those for which they were intended, including buying gifts and spending on entertainment.
Concern has also been raised about the links between the Garda Training College and a nearby golf club.