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Wednesday 13 December 2017

Justice 'knew of arrangements at Garda College'

Garda Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan Picture: PA
Garda Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan Picture: PA
Philip Ryan

Philip Ryan

A leading official claimed the Department of Justice was "fully aware" of the controversial financial arrangements in the Garda College in Templemore for years, the Irish Independent can reveal.

In explosive new documents sent to the Public Accounts Committee, the former Garda Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Cyril Dunne said there had been discussions "over the years" between commissioners and secretary generals about the college's finances.

In the minutes of a senior management meeting on the Templemore College controversy in August 2015, Mr Dunne also told colleagues he intended on keeping information on the issue from then acting Garda Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan.

"The CAO agreed but said that he will keep the Commissioner informed more on process rather than content on issues and he does not want to back the Commissioner into a corner," the minutes stated.

The behind-closed-doors meeting was held to discuss serious concerns among civilian garda staff about financial irregularities around the Garda College.

At the meeting, it emerged Ms O'Sullivan did not want to lodge a so-called section 41 report with the Department of Justice to alert the Government to the scale of financial mismanagement at the college because she believed they did not have enough information.

It has since emerged the college was operating more than 40 unauthorised bank accounts - some wrongly used for entertainment purposes.

The force's head of legal affairs, Kenneth Ruane, raised concerns over whether funding from the college was correctly recorded in the Commissioner's end-of-year accounts.

Mr Dunne said he was "comfortable" that there were accounts for the Garda College, and said the only issue was whether any surplus from these accounts should be paid back to the Exchequer at the end of the year.

"CAO is happy that the department is fully aware of the position in the Garda College and that there have been discussions over the years between commissioners and secretary generals on the issue," the minutes stated.

Garda Superintendent Patrick McCabe told the meeting the Department of Justice was also "fully aware" of arrangements concerning the College restaurant. The restaurant's accounts are at the centre of the controversy as the funding was used to buy land for a Garda golf club and set up entertainment funds.

"The department is fully aware of the arrangements in relation to the College restaurant and referenced certain decisions taken in 1989 in relation to the Garda vote," the minutes stated. Mr Dunne supported his colleague and agreed the department knew about the restaurant.

A spokesman for Tánaiste and Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald last night said it would not be appropriate to offer a running commentary on matters that are currently the subject of that examination by that committee. "The Tánaiste has indicated many times her grave concern at the findings of the Interim Internal Audit Report received in March," he said.

"She immediately referred it to the Policing Authority to oversee the implementation of the recommendations in the report and to report to her on progress. The Tánaiste will consider outcome of the examination by the PAC and will not hesitate to take further action if that is required," he said.

Irish Independent

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