Sunday 19 January 2020

O'Sullivan faces renewed calls to go over college finances furore

Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald. Photo: Tom Burke
Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald. Photo: Tom Burke
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Garda Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan has faced renewed demands for her to go - as she remains mired in a series of Garda controversies including the latest furore over finances at the Templemore Training College.

While Taoiseach Leo Varadkar restated his own confidence in Ms O'Sullivan, insisting she is "fighting many battles on many fronts in an effort to put things right", three members of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) have said she should resign or be removed from office.

Fianna Fáil TD Marc MacSharry last night said that it is "essential" that public confidence in the Garda is restored and that "without prejudice to ongoing investigations" the Taoiseach "must step in now and have Cabinet replace the Commissioner".

Labour TD Alan Kelly said he doesn't believe Ms O'Sullivan has the confidence of the Dáil and added: "The Garda Commissioner should resign, and if she doesn't resign the Government should remove her."

Sinn Féin TD Mary Lou McDonald argued in the Dáil that public confidence in Ms O'Sullivan is "in tatters".

She also claimed Ms O'Sullivan "misled" the Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG) by providing an assurance about the integrity of Garda finances in a letter sent on July 31, 2015, days after she says she first learned of issues about the finances at Templemore.

At the PAC, Ms O'Sullivan said at the time she wanted more information on the "complex" issues involved but that if she "knew then what I know now" she would have contacted the C&AG about the college at that point.

Ms McDonald claimed that Ms O'Sullivan's position is "untenable" and told Mr Varadkar: "You have to ensure that the Commissioner goes."

Mr Varadkar said the Government had confidence in Ms O'Sullivan and that "most, if not all, of the problems that beset the Garda predate her becoming Garda Commissioner".

He conceded that public trust has been "strained" due to revelations about the Garda in recent times.

Mr Varadkar said the Government has a duty to restore this trust - adding that the best way to do that is "a thorough investigation of all the allegations that have been made".

The Taoiseach said Ms McDonald was contending that various ongoing investigations, including the Charleton Tribunal examining the treatment of Garda whistleblowers, should be bypassed with a "rush to judgment". He said: "I don't believe in summary justice or kangaroo courts."

Earlier, Ms McDonald defended her PAC questioning of Ms O'Sullivan's "clout" in the context of being the first female Garda commissioner.

She told RTÉ it was a "legitimate question" to determine if there was "a sense of sexism" in Garda culture that "might impede her carrying out her tasks".

Ms O'Sullivan said: "I've never defined myself by my gender. I'm a professional police officer and I'm very proud of that fact."

Irish Independent

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