Friday 23 March 2018

Garda Commissioner to hang on - but she loses Fianna Fáil backing

Noirin O'Sullivan warns more 'bad practice' findings 'inevitable'
Pressure: Noirin O'Sullivan
Pressure: Noirin O'Sullivan
Jody Corcoran

Jody Corcoran

Garda Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan last night remained under serious pressure after Fianna Fail said it was "unable" to express confidence in her following a statement she issued yesterday to address the latest controversies to engulf the force.

In that statement, Ms O'Sullivan also warned it was "inevitable" that more examples of "bad practice" would be identified. She described as "totally unacceptable" the latest revelations related to collating statistics on breath testing and wrongful legal cases being taken against drivers.

In using those words, she met a requirement laid down by the Taoiseach Enda Kenny who, speaking in Rome yesterday, said the Government would like her to be "very clear" that the revelations were "not acceptable".

Read more: Garda Commissioner warns 'inevitable' more bad practice in force will emerge

In her statement, Ms O'Sullivan also referenced the Policing Authority. She said: "This is an issue - as the authority has pointed out - which is more than systemic. It's about ethics. It's about supervision. It's about measurement. Most of all, it's about trust."

She asked the authority to consider requesting the Garda Inspectorate to examine the processes and methodology utilised to identify the nature and extent of the problems; review the control measures put in place designed to address the issues and examine if the current processes regarding roadside breath testing are in line with best practice.

A Garda Commissioner may be removed from office by the Government, but only for stated reasons: failure to perform functions with due diligence and effectiveness; engaging in conduct that brings discredit on the office or that may prejudice the proper performance of functions; and, more broadly, "the removal of the person from office would, in the opinion of the Government, be in the best interests of the Garda Siochana". Since 2015, the Policing Authority may also recommend to the Government the removal of a Garda Commissioner if the reasons relate to policing services. The Government is obliged to consider any such recommendation.

Yesterday, Ms O'Sullivan said it was "important to state at this point" that when an organisation like An Garda Siochana was on a "journey of radical reform" it was "inevitable" that more examples of "bad practice" would be identified. In addition to correcting these issues, she said: "We must share that information, no matter how negative."

Read more: Fitzgerald stands by Garda Commissioner but warns her to put 'robust' systems in place

Gardai have been criticised for releasing details of the latest controversies at a time of media focus on the death of former Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness and a terrorist attack in London.

Last Friday, Fianna Fail Justice spokesman Jim O'Callaghan said he would not have confidence in the Garda Commissioner until he got answers on why almost 15,000 motorists were wrongly convicted.

He had said: "The Commissioner should take the lead to see that an acceptable explanation is given." He also said: "We need to know why something like this happened and who is at fault." He then added he was very concerned gardai had known for the last eight months about the latest events.

Last night, Mr O'Callaghan told the Sunday Independent: "On Friday, I called for an explanation for the gardai as to how 14,700 wrongful convictions occurred as a result of Garda error. I also asked for an explanation as to how 937,000 breath tests were falsely recorded on the PULSE system. Today's statement by the Commissioner does not provide the explanations sought. Instead it provides a description of the problem, and states that both issues will again be examined internally by the gardai. This is not a satisfactory response to the problems that the gardai have been aware of for some time. It is not enough for the Commissioner to express grave disappointment. Public confidence in the gardai must be restored and this will only happen when full explanations are provided."

Read more: Tanaiste says she has 'full confidence' in Garda Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan

Asked whether he had confidence in the Garda Commissioner, he said Fianna Fail was "unable" to express confidence on the basis of her latest statement.

Ms O'Sullivan also said: "Every single member of the organisation must recognise that their individual actions, in all areas of policing, reflects on the organisation as a whole and impacts on the trust between ourselves and the communities we serve."

Sunday Independent

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

Also in this section