Thursday 14 November 2019

Cracks show in Fianna Fáil leadership on future of Garda Commissioner

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin. Photo: Arthur Carron
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin. Photo: Arthur Carron

Kevin Doyle, Cormac McQuinn and Niall O'Connor

Cracks are showing within the Fianna Fáil leadership over the party's position in relation to the future of Garda Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan.

Several prominent TDs voiced concerns at a meeting of the party's frontbench in a move that has put serious pressure on party leader Micheál Martin.

The Irish Independent understands that Fianna Fáil will now put forward its own motion on Garda management next week - but will stop short of moving on Commissioner O'Sullivan.

Mr Martin is expected to hold talks with Labour Party leader Brendan Howlin about a joint motion calling for an urgent overhaul of Garda management as the fallout from the breath-tests scandal continues.

At yesterday's frontbench meeting, Mr Martin was warned he would be in a seriously difficult position if he became taoiseach while Ms O'Sullivan was Commissioner.

Deputies Eamon Ó Cúiv, Timmy Dooley and Billy Kelleher are understood to have voiced concerns about the party's stance. Mr Martin will meet Tánaiste and Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald today about the Government's root-and-branch review into the Garda force.

The Fianna Fáil position is that it cannot express confidence in the Garda chief.

But TDs have come under major pressure at grassroots level to harden their stance and force her removal.

Read More: We need action on the force - instead we get more reports

At least one frontbench member called on Mr Martin to support a no-confidence motion, during the meeting in Leinster House.

But other deputies, including Thomas Byrne and Niall Collins, said such motions could set a dangerous precedent.

A senior source told the Irish Independent: "There was divided opinion. But we will now proceed with our motion, possibly with the help of Labour."

Mr Martin told the meeting that Fianna Fáil proposed the Patten-style commission and this is being accepted.

Meanwhile, Ms Fitzgerald told the Cabinet that reforms of An Garda Síochána proposed in a 2015 report can still be implemented while a fresh "root-and-branch" review of the force is conducted.

The Justice Minister briefed her colleagues on plans for a "Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland" ahead of consultations with Opposition parties.

It comes as the Oireachtas Justice Committee issued the Garda Commissioner with 15 questions about the scandal surrounding one million breath tests that never took place.

Members of the cross-party committee have demanded clarity on the timeline of the Garda audit into the bogus statistics, as well as whether further issues will emerge outside the area of traffic.

During her Cabinet update, the Tánaiste said the new review would be wide-ranging and involve independent experts.

Meanwhile, Taoiseach Enda Kenny has confirmed to the Dáil that he has received the final version of the Fennelly Commission report into the taping of non-emergency phone calls at garda stations.

Irish Independent

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