Monday 20 November 2017

Dáil committee to issue 'damning' Templemore report

Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan Picture: Tom Burke
Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan Picture: Tom Burke
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

A report on the Garda Training College at Templemore, to be published by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) today, will be "damning", a TD has claimed.

Fianna Fáil's Marc MacSharry also argued last night that Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan and other senior gardaí would "have to go".

He claimed that public confidence in An Garda Síochána was now "in the gutter", despite the best efforts of rank and file members, and that it must be restored without delay.

The PAC report is expected to criticise the length of time it took Garda management to inform the State's spending watchdog, the Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG), and the Department of Justice about the issues at Templemore.

The committee can't make adverse findings against any individuals and it won't accuse Ms O'Sullivan of any wrongdoing.

However, it will add to pressure on the Garda Commissioner, in the wake of a series of other controversies to hit the force.

Mr MacSharry claimed that "irrespective and without prejudice to other investigations" Ms O'Sullivan and other senior gardaí "have to go". He continued: "The restoration of public confidence in gardaí is more important than any individual."

He claimed the PAC's report on Templemore is "damning".

The committee has spent months examining a Garda internal audit of the finances at Templemore, which showed that the college had a web of more than 40 bank accounts.

Some were used for purposes other than those for which they were intended, including on entertainment and buying gifts.

As the committee carried out its work, it emerged that the suspected fraudulent use of EU funds linked to the college was now being investigated by the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) and the European anti-fraud agency OLAF.

The PAC probe exposed deep divisions among the Garda's civilian management and contradictory accounts of when Ms O'Sullivan first learned of issues at the college. She has insisted that she was first told of the concerns in detail on July 27, 2015 and that she acted promptly to set up a working group to deal with the issue.

Over the weekend, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar reiterated the Government's support for Ms O'Sullivan, saying: "We have full confidence in the Garda Commissioner."

He spoke of the challenge of bringing about a change of culture in an institution like An Garda Síochána, but said Ms O'Sullivan was driving though her reform programme.

Meanwhile, St Raphael's Garda Credit Union has written to the PAC to express concern at a report of the committee's proceedings which suggested that the credit unon was not co-operating fully with the Garda Internal Audit Section (GIAS) in its Templemore inquiries.

The audit unit has sought access to accounts at the credit union and has written to the PAC to say it is still awaiting access to one of them.

A statement by St Raphael's said that it was "an independent financial institution subject to the same regulations and laws that apply to other financial institutions". It would be "happy to co-operate fully with the GIAS investigation, subject to receipt of the appropriate lawful authority to release the information requested".

Irish Independent

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