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New Garda Commissioner appointed just months after 'maelstrom of controversy'


Noirin O'Sullivan

Noirin O'Sullivan

Noirin O'Sullivan

Think back just six short months and remember the maelstrom of controversy that engulfed the force of An Garda Siochana.

That controversy resulted not only in the departure of the then Garda Commissioner, Martin Callinan, but it would lead to the departure of Justice Minister Alan Shatter and his top official at the Department of Justice, Brian Purcell.

It was a full blown crisis in how our police force was being run.

Noirin O’Sullivan was chosen to replace Callinan on an interim basis and she wasted no time in creating some distance between herself and the man she had worked very closely with up until that time.

At her first outing before the media, she immediately described Callinan’s use of the term ‘disgusting’ in regard of the actions of two garda whistleblowers, Maurice McCabe and John Wilson, as ‘ill-judged’.

Despite being there sitting beside Callinan as he made the remark at the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), her comments had the effect of projecting an image of a new way of doing business.

She reassigned some of Callinan’s other chief leuitenants to other duties on taking office.

However, publicly, O’Sullivan a Dublin native and member of the Gardai since 1981, realised the public wanted another narrative.

She spoke of protecting whistle blowers, encouraging dissent and ensuring that those making complaints are listened to.

She reached to Garda McCabe, reinstated his access to the Garda ‘Pulse’ database, which had been cut off on Callinan’s watch.

One afternoon, while appearing before an Oireachtas committee, O’Sullivan stopped her car, crossed the plinth in Leinster House in order to have a conversation with the other whistleblower John Wilson.

All the time, she sought to make a pitch for the job on a permanent basis.

Much was also made on her interim appointment that she is a woman, in a job normally reserved for tough no nonsense men.

Her elevation shows clearly she is not someone to take lightly or disregard easily.

New Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald on taking office made much of the fact that the appointment of the new Garda Commissioner would come after an exhaustive global search.

We are told that O’Sullivan was the sole candidate recommended by Public Appointment Service following an independent and open selection process.

This process included a global search and two rounds of interviews which involved both Irish and International candidates. The final round of interviews was held in recent days and involved Ms. Josephine Feehily, Chair-designate of the proposed new Policing Authority.

Now, given the job has gone to the incumbent, there will be the inevitable accusations of it being an insider appointment.

But in this case, O’Sullivan had gone a long way to win the public’s confidence. They like her demeanour, they acknowledge that she has brought some element of calm to where chaos reigned before.

But she formally takes over a demoralised force, starved of resources which is in bad need of leadership.

She has had a decent trial run, and she is a good political choice to take over the post permanently, but O’Sullivan has a lot to do to bring peace to the trouble house that is our national police force.

Online Editors