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Sunday 22 September 2019

'O'Sullivan's replacement may need to be headhunted' - Fianna Fáil's justice spokesman

Jim O'Callaghan has welcomed the retirement of Noirin O'Sullivan

Fianna Fail justice spokesman and barrister Jim O'Callaghan Photo: Tom Burke
Fianna Fail justice spokesman and barrister Jim O'Callaghan Photo: Tom Burke Newsdesk Newsdesk

Fianna Fáil's justice spokesman has said a replacement for Noirin O'Sullivan may need to be headhunted.

In a surprise move Ms O'Sullivan stepped down on Sunday evening, announcing her retirement six hours before it came into effect.

Ms O'Sullivan cited the constraints on her job posed by an "endless cycle" of investigations and inquiries which were detracting from her ability to carry out reform in An Garda Siochana.

Her decision to relinquish the role follows a sustained period of mounting pressure on the Commissioner to step down amid the recent garda scandals, including falsified alcohol breath tests, wrongful motoring convictions, financial irregularities at the Garda Training College, and the ill treatment of garda whistleblowers.

Jim O'Callaghan, speaking on Today with Sean O'Rourke on RTE Radio One said that the Policing Authority must be proactive in seeking a replacement to take the helm of the force.

Minister for Justice, Charlie Flanagan, will meet with the Policing Authority today to begin the process of finding a new commissioner.

Following an open competition by the Public Appointments Service, the authority will nominate a candidate to the minister, who can accept or reject that person.

"That may sound very effective but it may be the case that we have to go out and identify and headhunt a specific individual.

"If that is the case that process needs to be put in train by the Policing Authority rather than waiting for the names to come in an say who is the best of these?

"Because it is an important nomination. The role of garda commissioner now is really a management job... the issues facing the force today are the modernisation programme and management of the force and that's why we need to look to ensure that the person who replaces Noirin O'Sullivan is strong in both of those portfolios," he added.

Mr O'Callaghan said that perhaps there should be a consideration given by politicians on Oireachtas committees to ensure they are not  "too much demands on commissioners to come in on a frequent basis".

The Fianna Fáil TD defended Fianna Fail's decision to call for Ms O'Sullivan to step down saying that there had to be some accountability in the forced in relation to the garda breath test scandal.

He said the party put a lot of thought into the decision to seek her resignation from the post after it emerged one million false breath tests had been recorded by the force.

It was not about personalities but about accountability at a senior level in the organisation, he said.

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