Saturday 25 March 2017

Justice Minister expresses confidence in Garda Commissioner in tense Dail exchanges

Minister Fitzgerald insists all claims must be investigated

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald, left, and Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan, right. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald, left, and Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan, right. Photo: Steve Humphreys
John Downing

John Downing

JUSTICE Minister Frances Fitzgerald has said she has confidence in Garda Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan.

During very tense Dáil exchanges about allegations of abuse of garda whistleblowers, opposition politicians suggested that Commissioner O’Sullivan should at very least stand aside pending investigations.

Independs4Change TD Mick Wallace demanded that the Justice Minister sack the Commissioner. He said there was evidence that Ms O’Sullivan was aware of efforts to discredit and harass whistleblowers in An Garda Síochána.

Fianna Fáil TD, Charlie McConalogue, and Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald, said those at the centre of fresh allegations of abuse of whistleblowers, had said they would not cooperate with any new inquiries as long as the Commissioner was in office.

Mr McConalogue wanted to know what the Minister would do in that case.  Ms McDonald said there was no legal bar to the Commissioner standing aside for a time.

The Justice Minister said An Garda Síochána had given very good service to the community and enjoyed recent successes in the fight against crime.

“But for all their strengths, I have recognised that fundamental reforms are necessary,” Ms Fitzgerald said, insisting she was engaged in the most fundamental reforms in the force’s history.

Ms Fitzgerald said the Government was going to investigate the most recent allegations involving whistleblowers and would proceed as quickly as possible. But she insisted due process must respect everyone’s legal rights.

“Is an accusation now sufficient to secure a conviction? Is that what you’re saying?” Ms Fitzgerald asked the Sinn Féin deputy leader.

“No findings of wrongdoing have been made against the Commissioner. She is entitled to our confidence,” Ms Fitzgerald added.

Deputy Mick Wallace said the Minister had not replied to some of his letters in the past and these controversies were going on for two years. He urged the Commissioner’s removal from office.

Labour party leader Brendan Howlin told the RTÉ News at One: “As long as you leave her in position, the allegations will continue against that Commissioner – and you know it’s only going to get worse."

The Wexford TD said: “The very elaborate proposals that have been put forward have not been implemented. We need to make sure that all the good men and women of An Garda Siochana can carry out their work without fear or favour.

“It is clear to me that there were whistle blowers who felt An Garda Siochana was not a comfortable place for them.

“Regards the most serious allegations of harassments, we need to know who is responsible for that and they need to be out of the guards.

“All citizens have rights. They are entitled to their good name. The only process that can be done now is to have a statutory inquiry so that everyone will be required to present the facts as they know them.

“We need an interim report from a judge and we also need to have a road map for the transformation of the guards.”

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