Thursday 27 October 2016

Cormac McQuinn: Commissioner's mantra leaves TDs none the wiser

Published 13/10/2016 | 02:30

Garda Commission Nóirín O'Sullivan arriving for the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice and Equality meeting at Leinster House yesterday
Garda Commission Nóirín O'Sullivan arriving for the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice and Equality meeting at Leinster House yesterday

Garda Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan arrived at Leinster House flanked by a dozen senior colleagues, including five in uniform.

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She was there to discuss "the priorities for An Garda Síochána in the near future".

But perhaps she needed her large team for moral support, as Ms O'Sullivan's near future includes a grilling over the alleged campaign to undermine a Garda whistleblower.

With her chief critics Mick Wallace and Clare Daly among the TDs facing her across the room, it would be a long morning for the embattled Commissioner.

Ms O'Sullivan took her opportunity to outline Garda successes, including a 30pc fall in burglaries at the start of this year and gun and drugs seizures in their efforts to tackle gangland crime.

Fianna Fáil's Jim O'Callaghan asked if Ms O'Sullivan was aware of any examples of Garda whistleblowers who have suffered adverse consequences for coming forward with their concerns. She replied she was aware of public commentary of such allegations but she can't discuss individual cases.

She also spoke - of course - of her determination that whistleblowers will be listened to and supported, and outlined reforms in the force. This was not going to satisfy the likes of Mr Wallace and Ms Daly from Independents4Change.

Sometimes it appears that the change they want the most is at the top or An Garda Síochana and yesterday's committee meeting was no exception.

Ms Daly claimed that the legal representative of a whistleblower wrote to Ms O'Sullivan 14 times with allegations about the targeting of those who raised concerns from within the Garda.

It was a line of questioning that went on for some time.

The Commissioner said she couldn't comment on individual cases and - in what became a mantra for the committee proceedings - said she wasn't privy to, did not approve of, and would not condone the targeting of any individual. TDs and Senators would hear a lot of that as the morning wore on, as seemingly endless variations on the question of whether or not Ms O'Sullivan was aware of a campaign against a whistleblower was met with the same responses.

Having previously called on Ms O'Sullivan to go on several occasions, Ms Daly didn't get much closer to making that happen yesterday. The Commissioner did deliver a promise that gardaí will assist the judge examining the latest whistleblower allegations. Mr Justice Iarflaith O'Neill's work will continue for five weeks.

If the committee members thought they'd elicit any big revelations on the matter from the encounter with Ms O'Sullivan, they would be disappointed. They're not much wiser on the issue. Sticking to her lines on the subject, the Commissioner was insistent she didn't know much about anything at all.

Irish Independent

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