Sunday 26 January 2020

Varadkar 'not happy' about pace of Garda reform

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Photo: Tom Burke
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Photo: Tom Burke
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

TAOISEACH Leo Varadkar has said he's "not happy" with the pace of reform in the Gardaí, but insisted he still has confidence in Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan.

AOISEACH Leo Varadkar has said he's "not happy" with the pace of reform in the Gardaí, but insisted he still has confidence in Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan.

Sinn Féin TD Mary Lou McDonald called on Mr Varadkar to remove Ms O’Sullivan from the role in the wake of various controversies to hit the force, including the latest revelations about finances at Templemore Training College.

Speaking in the Dáil Ms McDonald argued that public confidence in the Commissioner is “in tatters” and claimed that Ms O’Sullivan has “failed to tackle persistent malpractice and a blatant lack of accountability in the upper echelons of Garda management”.

Ms McDonald also claimed Ms O’Sullivan “misled” the Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG) over the integrity of Garda finances, days after she says she first learned of issues at Templemore.

She told Mr Varadkar: “I think you have to face up to reality. The Garda Commissioner has to go. Her position is absolutely untenable.

“Do you as Taoiseach have confidence in Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan?” she asked.

Mr Varadkar replied: “Yes I do have confidence in the Garda Commissioner and the government does too.

“The problems that are besetting the Gardaí are longstanding. Most if not all of the problems that beset the Gardaí predate her becoming Garda Commissioner and I believe that she is somebody who is fighting many battles on many fronts in an effort to put things right,” Mr Varadkar said.

He conceded that public trust in the force has been “strained” due to revelations about the Gardaí in recent months and years.

Mr Varadkar said: “We’ve a duty as a government to restore that confidence and restore that trust”.

He said the best way to do this is to “ensure there is a thorough investigation of all the allegations that have been made.”

“That is now underway,” Mr Varadkar added saying its important that separate investigations by the Dáil’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) and the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) into finances at Templemore are allowed run their course.

The Taoiseach also said: “We also need to accelerate the pace of reform in the Gardaí and I’m not happy with the pace at which reform is occurring in the Gardaí.

“I think it is very important over the next number of months and years that we build on the reforms that have taken place but we also accelerate those so that we can do what is most important which is to restore confidence and trust by the people in the Garda.”

Ms McDonald described his remarks as “uninspiring” and accused Mr Varadkar of “treading again the well worn path of Enda Kenny, a master of evasion, a man who brought not taking decisions in respect of Garda reform to a higher art level.”

She said that if Mr Varadkar’s comment on reform are “more than rhetoric” and if he is “serious about a new era in policing then accountability has to start at the very, very top” he has to “come off the fence”.

“You have to call things for what they are and you have to ensure that the Commissioner goes in the interests of An Garda Síochána and in the interests of public confidence,” she said.

Mr Vardkar rejected the suggestion he is “on the fence”, saying he’s been “clear” his has confidence in Ms O’Sullivan.

The Taoiseach said Ms McDonald was contending that various ongoing investigations including the Charleton Tribunal examining the treatment of Garda Whistleblowers should be bypassed with a “rush to judgement”.

He said: “I don’t believe in summary justice or kangaroo courts. I do appreciate you come from a political tradition that is ok about that, but mine is not.” 

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