Wednesday 21 February 2018

The political reactions as Noirin O'Sullivan steps down as Garda Commissioner

Opposition politicians welcome Noirin O'Sullivan's resignation as Varadkar commends her 'dedicated service to the State'

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

Sasha Brady

Opposition politicians have welcomed Garda Commissioner, Noirin O'Sullivan's decision to quit, while Leo Varadkar praised her 36 years of service.

The Garda Commissioner announced today that she would be standing down.

After an extended summer break, Ms O'Sullivan said she believed that resigning was the "right thing to do" and will now look to focusing on her family.

She expressed her frustration at the "unending cycle" of inquiries that made it difficult to focus on reform within An Garda Síochána.

She said: "It has become clear, over the last year, that the core of my job is now about responding to an unending cycle of requests, questions, instructions and public hearings involving various agencies including the Public Accounts Committee, the Justice and Equality Committee, the Policing Authority, and various other inquiries, and dealing with inaccurate commentary surrounding all of these matters.

"They are all part of a new – and necessary – system of public accountability. But when a Commissioner is trying – as I’ve been trying – to implement the deep cultural and structural reform that is necessary to modernise and reform an organisation of 16,000 people and rectify the failures and mistakes of the past, the difficulty is that the vast majority of [my] time goes, not to implementing the necessary reforms and meeting the obvious policing and security challenges, but to dealing with this unending cycle.”

On Sunday afternoon, she notified Mr Varadkar and Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan of her intention to retire.

Mr Varadkar praised Ms O'Sullivan for her "many years of dedicated service to the State".

"I want to thank her for that on behalf of the Government and the Irish people," the Taoiseach said in a statement.

"She has overseen many significant developments in often challenging circumstances, and in recent years took on the challenge of reforming the Gardai.

"As she said in her statement, her decision to retire is made in the best interests of An Garda Siochana and ensuring that it can focus on the extensive programme of reform that is now underway.

"I wish Noirin every success in whatever she does in the years ahead."

Mr Varadklar said the Government will now consider how best to accelerate the programme of reform.

There had been calls for Ms O'Sullivan to stand down following recent garda controversies including false breath tests, wrongful motoring convictions, financial irregularities at Templemore and questions about the treatment of whistleblowers.

Sinn Fein's Mary Lou McDonald welcomed Ms O'Sullivan's decision to quit and said it's been "very clear for a very long time" that her position is no longer tenable.

"She has finally done the right thing," Ms McDonald told RTE News.

Independents 4 Change TD, Clare Daly, also welcomed the news and told RTE that the next commissioner "must be brought from outside the existing garda hierarchy".

Fianna Fáil justice spokesperson Jim O'Callaghan said Ms O'Sullivan's departure paves the way for a new chapter for An Garda Síochána.

"I would like to thank Nóirín O'Sullivan for her many years of public service and wish her well in her retirement. Her resignation means there has been some accountability within An Garda Síochána for the 1.5 million false breath tests recorded on the Garda Pulse system," said Mr O'Callaghan.

Today, Ms O'Sullivan became the second garda commissioner to retire in the last three years, following the enforced early retirement of Martin Callinan in March 2014.

Labour leader Brendan Howlin also reacted positively to the news and called for urgent reform.

Mr Howlin said: "While I recognise the decades of service that Commissioner O'Sullivan has given the State it is clearly in the interests of policing and the urgently required reform of An Garda Síochána that we have new leadership in the force.

"The new Garda Commissioner will be the first to be appointed by Government on the recommendation of the Policing Authority.

"There clearly must be an international competition with clear criteria set out by the Authority to fulfil the reform agenda.

"I have confidence that the Policing Authority will successfully achieve that task," Mr Howlin said.

Justice Minister, Charlie Flanagan said: "Since the establishment of An Garda Siochana, the role of commissioner has been a hugely demanding one but I want to acknowledge that, during Commissioner O'Sullivan's tenure, she was faced with particularly significant difficulties, many of which had built up over several decades.

"Commissioner O'Sullivan showed enormous resilience, determination and integrity in addressing those challenges and, in particular, in instituting a radical reform programme to modernise our policing service with the aim of providing the people of Ireland with world-class policing."

Mr Flanagan said he will continue with the necessary reform programme.

From midnight tonight, Deputy Commissioner, Donall O Cualáin, will step in as Acting Commissioner.

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