Saturday 18 November 2017

Fianna Fail adds pressure on O'Sullivan

Commissioner comes under attack as authority reels off list of failures, writes Jim Cusack

Garda Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan Picture: PA
Garda Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan Picture: PA
Jim Cusack

Jim Cusack

Garda Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan's claim to lead a "shining beacon of 21st-century policing" has been demolished amid calls this weekend for her resignation.

Members of the civilian oversight body, the Policing Authority, openly rebuked Commissioner O'Sullivan and her "top" management team over failures to investigate rape and other serious crime and engage with victims of crime while concocting statistics - some of which were removed from the Garda website last week.

Fianna Fail has increased pressure on Commissioner O'Sullivan to consider her position after the chair of the Policing Authority said she had a "degree of confidence" in O'Sullivan and her senior management team to run An Garda Siochana.

Yesterday, a senior Fianna Fail source told the Sunday Independent: "The comments of Josephine Feehily (chairwoman of the Policing Authority) add a new dimension to the issue of the Garda Commissioner's position. Obviously the Policing Authority is monitoring developments.

"Our position remains that the Commissioner should examine her ability to continue to do her job, but that due process still applies.

"However, public hearings at the Charleton Tribunal need to start as soon as possible and the issues surrounding the Commissioner would preferably be the first module to deal with this for once and for all."

In relation to the Garda Commissioner, Ms Feehily said: "I would say we have a degree of confidence but we are concerned. I'm not saying that that's a deep concern at this point. The tribunal hasn't begun.

"We have flagged that concern to the Commissioner. We asked her the question in public yesterday and so I think it remains to be seen whether the accelerator can be kept to the floor in policing, and in modernising the organisation, while servicing the tribunal."

The first meeting of the tribunal investigating alleged smears against Garda whistleblowers will be held tomorrow morning. The Disclosures Tribunal, as it has officially been named, will hear the opening statement of Justice Peter Charleton at Dublin Castle from 9am. The event will be open to members of the public.

However, no applications for representation will be made on that date.

At last Thursday's public meeting with the new civilian oversight body, the Policing Authority, it was learned that the Garda has only a handful of specialist child interviewers to deal with between 17,000 and 20,000 reports of alleged child abuse each year.

Authority members were apparently aghast when the figure of "between 17,000 and 20,000 cases a year" was mentioned by one of the senior officers in Commissioner O'Sullivan's team, Assistant Commissioner John O'Driscoll, who is in charge of victim support.

The mood at the meeting worsened when it was claimed under further questioning by authority board member Dr Vicky Conway that the number of gardai trained to interview children is "in single figures".

Dr Conway challenged a claim by Deputy Commissioner John Twomey, that there are "73 gardai" trained in child victim interviewing. Under questioning, the deputy commissioner could not say how many had received full training in child interview techniques.

Dr Conway said that, from what she had learnt, the number of gardai who had completed the training was "in single figures".

A query to the Garda Press Office from the Sunday Independent last Thursday on this subject received no response. Garda sources told this newspaper, however, that the enormous disparity between the number of potential child abuse cases and the lack of almost any trained investigators was indicative of what they said was "disinterest" in crime investigation.

Commissioner O'Sullivan and her team of "strategic" managers will this week begin a course of ethics training as the Judge Charleton inquiry begins into allegations of corruption at top levels in the force.

The ethics training arises from the Policing Authority's publication of a Code of Ethics document for the force - something Garda management had failed to produce despite being statutorily obliged to do so under the 2005 Garda Siochana Act.

The Garda Commissioner's claims that "inaccuracies" by journalists were behind many of the problems facing the Garda were ignored by authority members at the hearing. There was also no reference or support for her previous statement that the Garda was a "shining beacon of 21st-century policing".

In September, the Commissioner's team admitted to the authority that untrained junior gardai were being detailed to investigate serious crime, including rapes, as there were frequently no trained detectives to do this work.

At the outset of Thursday's meeting, Ms Feehily made it clear they could not discuss the matters under investigation by the Charleton Inquiry before authority members raised questions about serious Garda management failures.

Sunday Independent

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