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Tuesday 24 October 2017

Scale of this scandal is bigger than one person

Garda Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan Picture: Gerry Mooney
Garda Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan Picture: Gerry Mooney
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

One of the very few reasons why the Cabinet could force the Garda chief out of office is if it believes such a move would be "in the best interests of An Garda Síochána".

That would be quite a reversal on the current position given that Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar says she is "part of the solution to cleaning up the gardaí, not part of the problem".

Mrs O'Sullivan has been embroiled in controversy since formally taking over the force in November 2014 but the current scandals are bigger than one person.

As Labour Party leader Brendan Howlin said last night, the buck stops with the Commissioner but getting her head on the plate might not actually achieve the necessary regime change.

The idea that almost one million phantom breath tests could go undetected across the country is in the words of various ministers "staggering".

Worse still is the fact that nearly 15,000 people were hauled before the courts unnecessarily. No doubt they suffered personal trauma and embarrassment at having to stand before a judge for something that should only have resulted in a basic fine.

"The Government is very annoyed and finds what's been happening appalling," Mr Varadkar said yesterday.

So is everybody else but the rhetoric will only get us so far. Two things have to happen now, and quickly.

Firstly there is merit in the proposed Patten-style commission that could lay the groundwork for a radical overhaul of An Garda Síochána.

"This isn't just some sort of mathematical error or clerical error. There's ethical issues here. This is an issue which is more than systemic. It's about ethics. It's about supervision. It's about measurement. Most of all, it's about trust," Mr Varadkar said.

Obviously there are a large number of gardaí around the country who feel it's acceptable to inflate their output. What else might they be OK with?

The second issue is how to deal with a management system that would allow such a culture to develop.

"It almost seems like the only people who get held to account in the senior public service sometimes are the politicians who of course can lose their jobs and their seats," Mr Varadkar acknowledged yesterday.

But Mrs O'Sullivan is just one person. Sources suggest any independent review of the force is likely to suggest big changes among the top brass and how they operate. That's what is really needed.

Irish Independent

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