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Sunday 30 April 2017

O'Sullivan remains defiant as support fades

Commissioner won't walk away as Cabinet set to decide her fate

Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Nóirín O'Sullivan has indicated she will not voluntarily stepdown as Garda Commissioner ahead of a Cabinet meeting to decide her fate.

Government confidence in the Garda chief was ebbing away last night as ministers privately acknowledged it will be difficult to defend her position in light of the latest scandals.

The Cabinet will tomorrow be forced to take some form of action or face an unprecedented scenario whereby the Dáil could express no confidence in Ms O'Sullivan.

The Irish Independent understands one option being considered is a review similar to the Patten commission, which led to the establishment of the PSNI in Northern Ireland.

This would allow space for an examination of the culture within An Garda Síochána and an analysis of Garda management's performance.

"Such a report would be likely to call for significant change in Garda management with more emphasis on Garda officers running policing and civilian experts in charge of actually managing the organisation," said one source.

A review with a short deadline for completion may also pacify Fianna Fáil and the Independent Alliance. Sinn Féin will today publish a Dáil motion of no confidence in Ms O'Sullivan.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has called on her to "consider her position" in a move that now means a majority of TDs do not have confidence in her.

But Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar said: "The reason why we have confidence in her is that we believe she is part of the solution to cleaning up the gardaí, not part of the problem."

It was revealed last Thursday that 937,000 breath tests were falsely recorded on the Garda Pulse system. And in a separate scandal, 14,700 wrongful convictions occurred because officers brought people to court rather than issuing them with fixed-charge notices.

Ms O'Sullivan has argued she was the person to put safeguards in place to ensure such incidents cannot happen again.

"We're looking at a problem that goes back more than a decade," she said over the weekend. "This is an issue which is more than systemic. It's about ethics. It's about supervision. It's about measurement. Most of all, it's about trust."

The criteria under which the Cabinet could force Ms O'Sullivan to resign are very strict and sources said last night that she will not walk away "without proper procedure and an opportunity to defend herself".

Mr Martin said his party wants the commissioner to give a "very blunt" explanation for how the scandals were born and went undetected for so long.

Fianna Fáil also intends to heap pressure on Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald in the coming days to outline what actions will be taken to ensure somebody is held accountable.

"This is an appalling vista that people cannot just wish away in internal reports and audits," he said.

Mr Martin did back the idea of a review of Garda practices "to be established to fundamentally, radically reform An Garda Síochána and bring it into the 21st century".

Read More: Scale of this scandal is bigger than one person

Fine Gael will today be trying to reassure members of the Independent Alliance to hold their nerve after junior minister John Halligan told RTÉ's 'This Week' the commissioner should "maybe consider stepping aside".

Transport Minister Shane Ross has decided to hold his counsel until after he meets with his colleagues tomorrow.

Labour Party leader Brendan Howlin has said the "lack of understanding from Government of the seriousness of these matters beggars belief".

"There must be an acceptance of responsibility, and a consequent action of accountability," he said.

Irish Independent

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