Wednesday 22 January 2020

Sacking Garda chief 'would cost too much'

Ministers warned as O'Sullivan admits errors were incompetence or deception

Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan. Photo: Mark Condren
Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan. Photo: Mark Condren

Kevin Doyle, Niall O'Connor and Tom Brady

An intervention from the Attorney General surrounding the cost of sacking Nóirín O'Sullivan helped sway ministers to continue backing the embattled Garda Commissioner, the Irish Independent has learned.

With the Cabinet split over the Garda boss's future, Máire Whelan warned that she would be entitled to a "significant" pay-off. Ms O'Sullivan (right), who is on an annual salary of €180,613, is just over two years into a seven-year term.

It is understood Ms Whelan warned the Cabinet that if just one minister broke rank to say they had lost confidence in the Commissioner, it could amount to constructive dismissal.

Martin Fraser, who sat on the interview panel that selected Ms O'Sullivan for the job in 2014, told ministers that she was "far ahead" of all the other candidates. But she will again be forced to fight for her survival today when she appears before the Oireachtas Justice Committee to explain how one million breath tests were wrongly recorded on the Garda Pulse system.

The Commissioner will tell TDs and senators: "At worst, this was deception. At best, this was incompetence."

She will also warn that the recording of breath tests that never took place could be the tip of the iceberg. "My real fear is that this falsification is not confined to traffic data," she will say.

A crisis summit of around 60 top gardaí was chaired by Ms O'Sullivan at Garda HQ in the Phoenix Park yesterday.

Officers argued many of the targets being set were unrealistic. Others blamed a shortage of sergeants and inspectors to carry out proper supervision of the figures being compiled. It is understood that superintendents are to attend a meeting in Westmanstown today.

Meanwhile, an audit of financial activities at the Garda Training College in Templemore has found a "non-transparent system of accounting".

Bank accounts were often used for purposes other than those for which they were intended, including buying gifts, entertainment and the sponsorship of Garda sports clubs.

Irish Independent

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