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Wednesday 18 October 2017

Police chief who will head garda review denies conflict of interest

‘Impartial’: Kathleen O’Toole
‘Impartial’: Kathleen O’Toole
Niall O'Connor

Niall O'Connor

The police chief appointed to lead a 'root-and-branch' review of An Garda Síochána denied her appointment represents a conflict of interest after it emerged she was personally involved in hiring Nóirín O'Sullivan as Garda Commissioner.

Kathleen O'Toole, the current head of police in Seattle, also said her commission will not be scrutinising the performance of individual members of Garda management.

Ms O'Sullivan's appointment was approved by Cabinet in November 2014.

Ms O'Toole was previously on a four-person panel, which also included secretary general at the Department of An Taoiseach Martin Fraser, that interviewed six candidates for the job which was previously held by Martin Callinan. Following myriad scandals involving the Garda, Fine Gael has agreed to an Independent Alliance demand for a 'root-and-branch' review into the force.

Surprise

Tánaiste and Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald this week proposed Ms O'Toole as the chairperson of the review, which will be known as 'The Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland'.

But her appointment caused surprise within policing circles given that she was a member of the board that hired Ms O'Sullivan as Garda Commissioner.

The pair have met on a number of occasions at various policing conferences.

Ms O'Toole told the Irish Independent that while she has "crossed paths" with Ms O'Sullivan on a professional basis, she insisted she will remain completely impartial in her role.

"I was a member of the selection panel, but do not believe that presents a conflict," Ms O'Toole said.

"I anticipate this will be a systemic review, not focused on particular individuals. I'll stand on my reputation as an objective, principled individual.

"In US lingo, I'm known as a straight shooter who calls them as she sees them."

Ms O'Toole previously served on the Garda Inspectorate before taking up the post of Head of Police in Seattle.

She also became a member of the Patten Commission, having previously served as a police officer in Boston.

In a statement, Ms Fitzgerald said there is no question of a conflict of interest. "As well as having extensive international policing experience and a knowledge of relevant issues here, Ms O'Toole also served on the Patten Commission on policing in Northern Ireland. Her considerable experience speaks for itself," she said.

"The fact that Ms O'Toole may have served, alongside others, on particular selection boards for senior police officers has no implications for her ability to fulfil this role," she added.

Irish Independent

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