Tuesday 22 May 2018

Garda bosses resist plans to hive off intelligence unit

Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan
Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan
Niall O'Connor

Niall O'Connor

Senior Garda bosses are resisting proposals being considered by the new policing commission to split the area of security and intelligence from the force.

Garda management met over two days this week with members of the commission set up to examine the future of the force, which is being led by former Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O'Toole.

The meetings took place in Garda Headquarters just weeks after Ms O'Toole cast doubt over the quality of applicants that applied for the position of Garda Commissioner, currently held by Nóirín O'Sullivan.

It's understood Ms O'Toole and her colleagues met with senior civilians and assistant commissioners, during which the following two questions were posed for discussion:

Do you think crime and security should be disengaged from An Garda Síochána and for a separate intelligence agency to be set up?

What is your vision for the modern day policing structure?

However, sources have revealed that a number of senior officers expressed considerable opposition to the idea of splitting up the force and creating a separate intelligence agency similar to the FBI in the US or MI5 in the UK.

A number of government ministers have previously floated the idea as a means of bringing Ireland in line with other countries.

Ireland is one of the few countries in Western Europe that has one body responsible for both security and policing.

"Certainly a view was expressed at senior level that this would not be a favourable to take," one source noted.

Ms O'Toole herself recently suggested that splitting up the force may not be the best outcome of the root-and-branch review.

Speaking in Glenties last month, Ms O'Toole said the two-way structure has been problematic.

"We have separated it for many years and we have had some real breakdowns in communications in the policing services and the civil policing. I know from practical experience, there is no bright line between terrorism and ordinary crime. They often intersect," Ms O'Toole said.

The root-and-branch review is due to be completed in September 2018. It's understood Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan is not in favour of an interim report being published.

Ms O'Sullivan, who is due to return from her five-week holiday on September 5, has already meet with the commission.

It was revealed last week that Ms O'Sullivan was turned down for a specialist post in Europol.

Her decision to apply for the job - halfway during her tenure as commissioner - has led to criticism within political circles.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar played down the decision by Ms O'Sullivan to seek an exit from the force.

"I think that anyone in any position in any walk of life is entitled to apply for a promotion.

"I think it's a good thing that people seek promotions and apply for promotions and the fact that they may not get it should not affect or undermine their authority in any way," Mr Varadkar said.

Irish Independent

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Also in this section