Saturday 20 January 2018

How Tánaiste declined three times to back Garda chief

Beleaguered: Garda Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan Photo: Damien Eagers
Beleaguered: Garda Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan Photo: Damien Eagers
Minister Frances Fitzgerald Photo: Mark Condren Newsdesk Newsdesk

Tánaiste and Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald was asked on Tuesday's 'Prime Time' by host Miriam O'Callaghan if she had confidence in Garda Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan in light of the controversy over the O'Higgins Report. Ms Fitzgerald declined to express confidence three times. Here's how the exchange played out:

MOC: Clare Daly said this evening in the Dáil that the Commissioner should go. Do you have full confidence in your Garda Commissioner?

FF: Well all of the evidence that I have in relation to the job that the Commissioner is doing in terms of the modernisation and reform, in terms of the changes and the issues that were identified in this report and indeed the many other reports, is that she is taking those recommendations forward and is working on them, is dealing with the issues around supervision, putting people in place to supervise.

MOC: Is that a yes?

FF: That is a yes in terms of her leadership of An Garda Síochána. Obviously cultural change is necessary. Whistleblowers need to be protected. You don’t change a culture overnight but in terms of the kind of change that’s necessary it has been identified in this report and other reports and there is a whole range of changes that have been brought in both by myself and the government.

MOC: OK if these transcripts Minister are all fully accurate, which we’re assuming they are. Do you still have full confidence in your Garda Commissioner?

FF: Miriam, I have to go back to the point that these are…

MOC: That’s a yes or a no.

FF: These are transcripts that are taken out of context. I don’t know the context.

MOC: In context…

FF: Out of context because we don’t know the full context. I have to say to you again that when the full report was written by the Justice charged with the job of running the Commission of Investigation they did not feature in the report.

MOC: If they’re correct in context. If they prove to be correct in the context in which they’re presented, do you have confidence in your Garda Commissioner?

FF: I couldn’t possibly answer a question that’s put like that because I believe that first of all what we are seeing are selective pieces of evidence and it would be completely wrong of me to comment on selected pieces of evidence from a commission of report that did not feature in the final version of the report. But I do… I would conclude by saying that I think it’s extremely important that whistleblowers in An Garda Síochána get the type of protections that clearly weren’t there when Sgt McCabe made his first allegations in relation to the various arenas that he was concerned about.

- After the programme, a spokesman for Ms Fitzgerald was asked by the Irish Independent why the minister appeared to struggle when asked if she had confidence in the Commissioner. The spokesman insisted Ms Fitzgerald had “full confidence” in the Commissioner. “What she was trying to do in the Prime Time interview was give some context to the situation,” the Minister’s spokesman said.

- Speaking in the Dáil yesterday, Ms Fitzgerald described Ms O’Sullivan as a “relatively new Commissioner” who is dealing with many complex issues including an eruption in gangland crime.

“We should give her our support to continue the important work that she is doing,” Ms Fitzgerald said.

Irish Independent

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