Saturday 20 January 2018

Civilian revolt in HQ turns up pressure on Garda commissioner

Civil servants claim they have been 'isolated' by new controls

Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan. Photo: Damien Eagers
Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan. Photo: Damien Eagers
Niall O'Connor

Niall O'Connor

Garda Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan is facing a revolt from some of the most senior civilian officers in the force as a result of a series of new controls introduced in Garda headquarters.

Ms O'Sullivan has stunned high-ranking civil servants after putting in place a new layer of garda management that has "diluted" their independence.

Informed sources told the Irish Independent that Ms O'Sullivan has effectively put a "ring of blue steel" around her office, which has left senior civilians feeling both isolated and of the view that their roles have been seriously diminished.

In an unprecedented move, a number of civil servants at senior level have written to the Deputy Garda Commissioner Dónall Ó Cualáin to air their grievances. Part of the move has seen a number of assistant commissioners and other senior officers being installed as go-betweens with senior civilians.

As a result of the new structures, some of the top officers in the force have now taken over workload in key administrative areas.

These include Asst Commissioner Michael O'Sullivan of the National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau; Asst Commissioner John O'Driscoll of the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation; and Asst Commissioner Eugene Corcoran of the Criminal Assets Bureau.

Well-placed sources say the move by Ms O'Sullivan contrasts greatly with recommendations contained in several reports that the force needs to be more civilianised.

And the move will raise questions for the Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald, who has consistently said she wants to see a more civilianised force and senior officers being taken from behind desks.

A garda spokesperson said: "An Garda Síochána does not comment on matters relating to individual personnel."


The spokesperson added that the implementation of An Garda Síochána's Modernisation and Renewal Programme 2016-2021 was ongoing and was "intended to ensure professional, clear and accountable governance structures".

"The contribution of the more than 2,000 civilians in An Garda Síochána is highly valued. Our civilian members bring new perspectives and expertise, thereby enhancing the combined skillset of the organisation," they added.

Ms O'Sullivan has been at the centre of several controversies since replacing Martin Callinan as Garda Commissioner.

In May, Ms O'Sullivan faced allegations that she instructed lawyers to challenge the motivations of the Garda whistleblower Maurice McCabe.

The controversy stemmed from leaked transcripts of private hearings of the O'Higgins Commission which purported to show that lawyers for An Garda Síochána said their instructions were to give evidence to show that Sgt McCabe's complaints were motivated by malice against a senior officer.

Members of the force have also expressed deep unease at the treatment of both current and former officers, including the ex-head of the garda press office, Superintendent David Taylor.

Mr Taylor has been suspended on a severely reduced salary for more than 15 months after being placed under investigation by a special unit.

Irish Independent

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