Working abroad doesn't affect my job, says garda watchdog
THE official tasked with dealing with confidential complaints of garda corruption – who spends much of his time living abroad – has said he would have resigned from the post if he could not fulfil his duties.
Oliver Connolly – the State's 'Confidential Recipient' – has said that though he has a home in London and travels to the Middle East and South Africa, his business abroad does not interfere with his duties here.
Although his house in Dalkey, Co Dublin, is currently being rented by former James Bond actor Timothy Dalton, Mr Connolly last night told the Irish Independent that he is "in Ireland every other week".
And he insisted his international activity "has not in any way been a bar" to receiving complaints about the gardai, adding that he has been "considerably busier" in the job than his predecessor.
The part-time Confidential Recipient – which has an annual allowance of €12,500 – is to be available to receive reports of corruption or malpractice within An Garda Siochana from garda members or civilian employees.
His mobile phone number was circulated to gardai and civilian staff for the purposes of making confidential complaints when he was appointed in 2011.
The trained barrister also runs a dispute mediation company in Ireland, Friarylaw, and a successful international business providing training for lawyers who want to pass the New York Bar exam.
He said that for "logistical reasons", the expansion of that business "has meant that I am spending more time at my London residence but I am in Ireland every other week".
He told the Irish Independent: "I can tell you that I have not in any way found advancing my business internationally to have conflicted with the role (of Confidential Recipient) at all.
"And if I did for a second I would happily, happily tender my resignation. My international activity has not in any way been a bar to my receiving communications from confidential reporters, nor my communicating with them, nor any subsequent meetings."
He said he remained available to meet people who made complaints in person, pointing out that his London home was "within one hour from the departure gates at Gatwick Airport to Dublin, Belfast or Cork".
Mr Connolly would not say how many cases he has dealt with during his time as Confidential Recipient, saying he is subject to the Official Secrets Act.
The Department of Justice could not provide the figure last night. A spokeswoman said: "The department is not aware of any issues in relation to the capacity of Mr Connolly to undertake the functions of Confidential Recipient."
However, Mr Connolly did say: "I have been considerably busier than my predecessor."
He said he took on the appointment "as a contribution to society".
"I didn't take it on for personal enrichment or anything like that," he added.
He confirmed that Timothy Dalton was renting his Dalkey home but said that the arrangement was only for two months as the actor films a new BBC series 'Penny Dreadful' in Ardmore Studios, Bray.
Mr Connolly's appointment as Confidential Recipient in 2011 was subject to controversy after it emerged that he had previously made a political donation of €1,000 to Justice Minister Alan Shatter in 2007.
Mr Shatter stood by the appointment and a department spokeswoman last night said that the donation was "appropriately declared" and "cannot act as a barrier to such an individual ever being appointed to a position for which he is eminently qualified".