Friday 21 October 2016

'I did not promote my bridesmaid... because I didn't have one' - Garda Commissioner appears before Justice Committee

Kevin Doyle and Cathal McMahon

Published 12/10/2016 | 09:46

Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan has denied that she promoted her bridesmaid during an appearance before a Dáil committee.

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The garda chief also faced some intense questioning from TDs and senators over her knowledge of the latest protected disclosures from whistleblowers.

Ms O’Sullivan has said it may be time to consider establishing an “independent entity” where whistleblowing issues can be dealt with.

During questioning Mick Wallace argued that the culture has deteriorated under her reign.

"You have promoted a lot of people who complaints have been made about, you have promoted your husband, your bridesmaid. You have surrounded yourself with your supporters rather than concentrating on quality."

Commissioner O'Sullivan was quick to hit back saying there were "lots of factual inaccuracies in the public domain" before adding that she didn't promote her bridesmaid "because I didn't have one".

She added: “I didn’t get this job easy, nor would I have expected to get their job easy.”

Asked whether any whistleblowers have been under garda surveillance, she said she was “absolutely not” aware of such a scenario.

“I believe there are no intelligence files,” she said in response to reports that files had been compiled on whistleblowers.

Asked about claims that she was aware of attempts to damage the character of whistleblowers, she replied: “I am not in business as Garda Commissioner or as Noirin O’Sullivan of interfering in anyone lives or families.”

Mr Wallace also queried whether any TDs have had their phones tapped. Ms O’Sullivan said that in cases of such survelliance the “appropriate legislation” is always followed.

She also revealed that first she learned of a carpark meeting between former PAC chairman John McGuinness and ex-Commissioner Martin Callinan through the media.

She staunchly defended An Garda Síochana's handing of whistleblowers and protected disclosures, stating, “From the outset, I have always made it clear that any employee has not only the right but the entitlement to come forward to raise any issue of concern, or any matters that they wish to bring to our attention.

“I’ve also said that sometimes when people raise issues they may not always be right, but they must be listened to, and they must have the confidence that all of their issues will be addressed.”

"We have introduced a protected disclosures policy. We have put a protected disclosures manager structure in place and the government have been informed of these measures.

In her opening address Ms O'Sullivan said she recognises that there needs  to be a process of continuous improvement. "That is why we are taking external advice on our policies and procedures and we very much welcome the Policing Authorities views."

She also praised the work of garda officers particularly in the area of gangland crime.

She said that since March 9: "There was over €1.9m in cash seized, 35 guns and 1000 rounds of ammunition, including AK74 [sic] assault rifles, sub machine guns, sawn-off shotguns and other semi-automatic weapons and silencers"

She said they have seized drugs worth €36m and 167 people have been arrested for drug trafficking and related offences.

Commissioner O'Sullivan praised the international policing cooperation that has seen officers from Spain and Italy joining garda operations here.

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