Friday 22 November 2019

Commissioner accused of part in ‘cover-up’

TDs claims O'Sullivan's position 'untenable'

Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan. Photo: Collins
Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan. Photo: Collins
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Garda Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan is facing renewed demands to go amid claims she was part of a "cover-up" in relation to concerns over an alleged 'slush fund' at Templemore Training College.

A damning report by the Dáil's powerful Public Accounts Committee (PAC) criticises the handling of serious financial irregularities at the College by Garda management over several years.

It comes as the Irish Independent can reveal that Ms O'Sullivan is heading off on a five-week holiday.

Labour TD Alan Kelly said he personally has "no issues with the use of the words cover-up" in relation to how the issues at Templemore were handled "over many decades".

Asked if Ms O'Sullivan played a part in such a cover-up, he said: "I believe the Garda Commissioner didn't act appropriately and as part of a broader culture certainly participated in that."

He said he believes Ms O'Sullivan's position is "totally untenable" due to the series of controversies that have hit the gardaí in recent months.

Members of the Public Accounts Committee launch their report into Templemore at Leinster House. Photo: Collins
Members of the Public Accounts Committee launch their report into Templemore at Leinster House. Photo: Collins

Fianna Fáil TD Marc MacSharry, meanwhile, argued terms like "cover-up", "containment" and "delay" were "reasonable comment" based on what evidence and testimony has shown about the handling of issues at Templemore.

He has broken ranks with party colleagues in calling for Ms O'Sullivan and other senior Garda management to go.

The PAC has criticised the Commissioner's failure to inform State spending watchdog, the Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG) of issues at Templemore as soon as she learned of the matter in the summer of 2015 as "unacceptable".

The committee has also criticised the delay in resolving the issues at Templemore and found Garda management had "several opportunities" over the last decade to rectify the College's financial issues "but failed to do so".

The PAC also found there was a culture in the force of "withholding information, providing inadequate information and keeping issues internal to avoid external scrutiny".

While PAC is constrained from making adverse findings about individuals, several members later claimed that Ms O'Sullivan's position is "untenable".

The three other Fianna Fáil members of the committee, including chairman Seán Fleming, are not calling on Ms O'Sullivan to resign.

Mr Fleming noted the party has previously stated it has a diminished level of confidence in the Commissioner, but the party doesn't have the authority to call for Ms O'Sullivan's resignation or removal. He said it's a matter for the Government to make that decision.

Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy also described Ms O'Sullivan's position as "untenable" as did Sinn Féin's Mary Lou McDonald. She argued Taoiseach Leo Varadkar "needs to tell Nóirín O'Sullivan that it's time for her to go".

The government last night insisted it has "full confidence" in Ms O'Sullivan to remain in her role. PAC member, Fine Gael TD Peter Burke said: "Nóirín O'Sullivan has my full confidence."

He said he wasn't suggesting his PAC colleagues weren't impartial in the committee's probe but it was "not an ideal situation" when 70pc of the members had previously expressed doubts about confidence in the force.

A Garda spokesman last night said the force will "take the necessary time to fully review the report before commenting further on it".

Ms O'Sullivan has always insisted she acted promptly to set up a working group to deal with the issues at Templemore when she learned the details of concerns over its finances on July 27 2015.

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan last night said that Garda authorities understand the gravity of the issues that have been raised by internal Garda auditors in relation to Templemore and "are taking comprehensive steps to progress its recommendations as quickly as possible."

Irish Independent

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