Thursday 18 January 2018

Fianna Fáil makes fresh call for Garda Commissioner to go after 'scandalous' new breath test revelations

Retiring Garda Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Retiring Garda Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

FIANNA Fáil has made a fresh call for Garda Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan to go amid what its justice spokesman Jim O'Callaghan described as "scandalous" revelations about the extent of the breath test controversy.

A Garda probe of the bogus tests found an additional 500,000 tests that were recorded but never carried out.

Mr O'Callaghan said: "Up to now we thought there was just 939,000 false breath tests published on the PULSE system. It now appears for the two years prior to those years there’s now an extra half a million. So we have a bigger problem than what we thought."

He called for the two Garda reports being discussed at Cabinet - the one relating to the breath tests, and another about wrongful traffic convictions - to be published "immediately".

Driver gets breath test. Stock photo
Driver gets breath test. Stock photo

Responding to media reports on the matter he said that if "in fact there’s one and half million false breath tests were carried out as a result of Garda dishonestly, well then that is one of the most damaging findings against An Garda Síochána in it’s long and distinguished history… if that finding stands in the report. 

"Let’s call it what it is, it’s scandalous," he added.

Read More: Breath test controversy: Garda tells operator to 'put him down for 90' when reporting checkpoint figures

Mr O'Callaghan told RTÉ Radio it's more than five months since his party first said it couldn't express confidence in the Garda Commissioner.

"We’ve stated since then that we believe she should step aside," but said it is up to the government to remove Ms O'Sullivan.

"It really is the function of government to try and restore public confidence  in the guards," he added.

Fianna Fail justice spokesman and barrister Jim O'Callaghan Photo: Tom Burke
Fianna Fail justice spokesman and barrister Jim O'Callaghan Photo: Tom Burke

Mr O'Callaghan said that if he was justice minister, he would invoke the powers to remove the Garda Commissioner.

However, he insisted that Fianna Fáil cannot insist that the government sack Ms O'Sullivan, despite the party's arrangement to facilitate the Fine Gael-led minority government.

"We have put pressure on the government but what we can’t do is start engaging in unlawful activity.

"Under the legislation Section 11 of the Garda Síochána Act vests exclusive power in the government to remove a Garda Commissioner. A government can remove a Garda Commissioner if it believes his or her removal will be in the best interests of the Gardaí," he said.

Read More: Noirin O'Sullivan show is set to pick up right where it left off

Mr Callaghan also said: "The reason why we called in the past and we’re calling now for a change at the top of An Garda Siochána is not because of any personal issue against Commissioner O’Sullivan but we need to recognise that there has to be a consequence to this [breath test] report if it comes out as is suggested in the media."

"It has undermined public confidence in An Garda Síochána. Unfortunately it confirms that Gardaí were giving false information to the public and it establishes that Gardaí were acting dishonestly in carrying out their public duties."

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