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Wednesday 26 July 2017

Shares in Aviva worth €24,000 found in probe of Garda Training College

Shares in insurance company Aviva worth around €24,000 are held by an entity linked to the controversial Garda Training College at Templemore
Shares in insurance company Aviva worth around €24,000 are held by an entity linked to the controversial Garda Training College at Templemore

Cormac McQuinn and Niall O'Connor

Shares in insurance company Aviva worth around €24,000 are held by an entity linked to the controversial Garda Training College at Templemore, TDs have been told.

Correspondence from gardaí to the Dáil's Public Accounts Committee (PAC) said that the shares are to be sold "immediately", with the proceeds to be returned to the State.

Meanwhile, another document sent to the PAC indicates that in 2015 at least one member of senior Garda management allegedly viewed a suggestion that Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan contact the then-justice minister in relation to issues as akin to pushing a "nuclear button".

The PAC is examining an interim report by the Garda internal audit unit which found financial irregularities at Templemore going back several years.

This included a web of more than 40 bank accounts, the majority of which have now been closed.

A document sent to the PAC by gardaí in recent days states that since providing the committee with information on the remaining bank accounts associated with Templemore, the force has become aware of Aviva shares. It says that they are held in the name of "Garda Mess Committee" - a name associated with the Templemore College Restaurant. The issue came to light "on receipt of a recent dividend from the shares".

Garda Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan. Photo: Tom Burke
Garda Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan. Photo: Tom Burke

They are said to be free shares generated from a Hibernian Norwich Union policy in existence between 1999 and 2015.

Though the policy was encashed, the shares were not sold and are currently valued at around €24,000.

"An Garda Síochána is having the shares immediately sold with the income generated returned to the State," the document said.

Examining investments associated with the college is described as "a priority" of the ongoing audit into Templemore.

Meanwhile, handwritten notes of a July 29, 2015 meeting between Garda human resources boss John Barrett and head of legal affairs Ken Ruane were also sent to the PAC.

They refer to the July 27 meeting that Ms O'Sullivan (inset) says is when she first learned details of the issues at Templemore.

The notes indicate that Deputy Commissioner Donal O Cualáin allegedly viewed Mr Ruane as having "pushed the nuclear button" in raising of the prospect of a Section 41 report to Frances Fitzgerald about Templemore.

Under the Garda Síochána Act, the Commissioner is obliged to submit such a report if there are "significant developments" that arise "that might reasonably be expected to affect adversely public confidence in the Garda Síochána".

Ms Fitzgerald wasn't informed about the issues at the college until the second half of 2016.

During her appearance at the PAC last week, Ms O'Sullivan insisted that at no point did she make a decision not to do a Section 41 report or inform the Department of Justice.

She said that at the time there was a need to compile more information on the issues at Templemore.

Ms O'Sullivan has said that she responded immediately to set up a working group to look at the issues at the college.

She said she instructed that the department "be fully informed of what I was doing and that it would be invited to join in the working group".

The PAC is to meet in private session on Thursday to discuss a the preparation of its report on Templemore.

Irish Independent

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