Wednesday 26 October 2016

Garda crisis grows as Police Authority voices 'deep unease'

Commissioner facing two public grillings on McCabe fallout

Tom Brady and John Downing

Published 27/05/2016 | 02:30

Garda Commissioner Noirin O Sullivan. Photo: Frank McGrath
Garda Commissioner Noirin O Sullivan. Photo: Frank McGrath

Garda Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan is facing her biggest crisis to date following a bruising assessment of the force from the Policing Authority in the wake of the O'Higgins Report.

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After a four-hour private meeting with the commissioner and her senior advisers, the authority issued a strongly worded statement attacking the performance of the force on several fronts.

The independent body overseeing An Garda Síochána told the garda chief of its "deep unease" at the organisation and its management culture.

And it warned of serious concern at the impact on victims of crime, amid the maelstrom of controversy now surrounding senior garda management.

Next month, Ms O'Sullivan will twice be hauled up again before the Policing Authority, which is chaired by former Revenue Commissioners chairwoman Josephine Feehily.

This time, the grillings will be held in public, as it seeks "evidence of a tangible response" to lessons learned.

The authority stressed the need for an urgent response by the Garda to the findings of the O'Higgins Report, which examined claims of malpractice raised by whistleblower Sergeant Maurice McCabe.

And it told Ms O'Sullivan it was concerned the good work being done by gardaí every day was being "set to nought" while doubts remained.

Prior to yesterday's meeting, Ms O'Sullivan had received the backing of the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste, as well as Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin.

The O'Higgins Report dominated the meeting, which was originally scheduled to take two hours, but lasted twice as long.

After the meeting, Ms Feehily said: "The recurring deficiencies in policing performance, evidenced in the O'Higgins final report, are deeply troubling.

"We wish to express our particular concern for the impact on the victims of crime, who were entitled to expect a professional and competent service from the Garda Síochána and who didn't get it. We welcome the Garda Commissioner's apology to the victims, her immediate acceptance of the commission findings and her acknowledgement that there are many lessons to be learned."

She added: "Today was just a first step in this oversight process and there is clearly a lot of work to be done."

The Garda Commissioner has been under mounting pressure and was this week forced to deny her legal team were ever instructed to "impugn the integrity of Sergeant Maurice McCabe".

Any efforts to draw a line under the controversy will be scotched by the looming public meetings to be held on June 13 and June 30. However, Ms Feehily did welcome Ms O'Sullivan's commitment to work to provide a safe environment in which wrongdoing in the Garda could be disclosed and said the authority would oversee that work on an ongoing basis.

The Policing Authority also called for the immediate publication of the Garda public attitude survey, the publication of the Garda protected disclosure policy, dealing with whistleblowers, at the earliest possible date and the engagement of an outside body to carry out an independent culture audit.

"Changing culture in a large, long-established organisation is one of the hardest tasks of leadership, which is why the authority has asked the Garda Commissioner to engage an external firm to carry out an independent culture audit so that progress can be measured."

Meanwhile, the Government has been urged to set up a new judge-led inquiry into allegations "rogue" officers were unofficially running criminals as informants.

Sinn Féin TD Martin Kenny stressed the majority of gardaí in his native Leitrim upheld best standards. He alleged that "rogue" gardaí were using criminal informants to entrap people and then prosecute them. Mr Kenny said he had been told about the problems by whistleblowers who were both serving and retired gardaí.

Irish Independent

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