Garda Commissioner criticised for travelling to California as strike looms
Garda Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan has been widely criticised after it emerged she travelled to California for a policing conference as her own force prepares to go on strike.
Commissioner O'Sullivan was part of a garda contingent in attendance at the four-day International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) conference in San Diego.
The event involves senior police officers and FBI agents giving presentations on issues ranging from drugs to gun crime.
Commissioner O'Sullivan herself gave an address to delegates as part of a discussion on the international element of policing.
Delegates were also invited to take part in a motorcycle ride, a five kilometre run and a golf classic in a bid to bond and relax.
She was joined at the conference by her husband Chief Superintendent Jim McGowan, Assistant Commissioner Michael O'Sullivan and the head of the Garda Inspectorate Robert Olson.
The Commissioner's decision to travel to the US was taken despite members of both the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI) and the Garda Representative Association (GRA) preparing to take unprecedented industrial action.
The AGSI's campaign of action begins tomorrow - while the Commissioner is only due to travel back to Ireland today.
Fine Gael TD for Wexford Michael D'Arcy accused the Commissioner of "sunning herself in San Diego" while a justice crisis is looming at home.
"Everything needs to be done to ensure the GRA and AGSI are persuaded to a position whereby the country is not left unpoliced," Mr D'Arcy told the Irish Independent last night.
"The Commissioner should have been here this week and not have been sunning herself in San Diego."
His party colleague Pat Deering said given the absolute urgency of the issue, the Commissioner should have remained at home.
"This is such a serious issue and we need to ensure a strike is avoided as it would not be good for communities," Mr Deering said.
"I would have thought, at the very least, the Commissioner would have been in the country as we put structures in place ahead of Friday."
Independent TD for Roscommon/Galway Michael Fitzmaurice described the decision to travel to the US as "shocking".
"It is akin to the captain being off the field during an All-Ireland final," he said.
The concern was heightened by the news yesterday that the Commissioner and Tánaiste and Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald have not yet discussed a contingency plan in the event of gardaí going on strike.
Ms Fitzgerald was also away for part of the week, as she attended a trade mission in France.
Fine Gael TD for Clare Joe Carey said he is "concerned" at the revelation that Ms Fitzgerald and Commissioner O'Sullivan have not yet discussed contingency plans.
Last night, a garda spokesman said the Commissioner was a "keynote speaker" at the event.
"This forms part of An Garda Siochána's international collaboration and commitments," the spokesman said.
"It is standard practice when the Commissioner is abroad for a temporary period that a Deputy Commissioner is appointed to perform the role and functions of the Commissioner.
"At all times the Commissioner is available to Deputy Commissioner O' Cualáin and is in communication with him in respect of ongoing issues.
"Other senior officers, including Detective Chief Superintendent McGowan, also attended the conference in a professional capacity. He travelled to the IACP conference in his capacity as the head of the Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau."