herald

Sunday 24 September 2017

Garda chief calls it quits - pocketing €300k lump sum and €90k per year

Noirin O’Sullivan has quit as Garda chief – walking away with a €300k lump sum
Noirin O’Sullivan has quit as Garda chief – walking away with a €300k lump sum

Garda Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan sensationally announced her retirement from An Garda Siochana last night - stepping down with a full pension worth €90,000 a year and a €300,000 lump sum after three years in the role.

The announcement came after an "unending cycle" of questions over her role, she said, and the shock news plunges the force deeper into crisis - as she gave just six hours' notice of her resignation.

The Taoiseach said: "Her decision to retire is made in the best interests of An Garda Siochana and ensuring that it can focus on the extensive programme of reform that is now under way."

Scandals

Ms O'Sullivan announced her retirement despite mounting pressure on her to resign amid the recent Garda scandals, including falsified alcohol breath tests, wrongful motoring convictions, financial irregularities at the Garda Training College, and the ill-treatment of Garda whistleblowers.

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan appointed Deputy Commissioner Donal O Cualain Acting Commissioner with full powers with effect from midnight last night.

As Commissioner, Ms O'Sullivan earned a basic salary of €180,000 plus allowances and by reaching the three-year mark she qualifies for a lump sum of 150pc of final salary, worth up to €300,000, and an annual pension of 50pc of her annual salary, worth up to €90,000.

A damning report on the scale of fake breath tests by gardai found 1,458,221 bogus drink and drug-driving checks from 2009 to 2016, prompting calls for the Commissioner to be sacked.

In a statement released yesterday, Ms O'Sullivan said she was stepping down because the "unending cycle" of investigations and inquiries has made it difficult to "implement the deep cultural and structural reform necessary to modernise" An Gardai Siochana.

"It has become clear, over the last year, that the core of my job is now about responding to an unending cycle of requests, questions, instructions and public hearings involving various agencies, including the Public Accounts Committee, the Justice and Equality Committee, the Policing Authority, and various other inquiries, and dealing with inaccurate commentary surrounding all of these matters," she said.

"They are all part of a new - and necessary - system of public accountability.

"But when a Commissioner is trying - as I've been trying - to implement the deep cultural and structural reform that is necessary to modernise and reform an organisation of 16,000 people and rectify the failures and mistakes of the past, but the difficulty is that the vast majority of her time goes, not to implementing the necessary reforms and meeting the obvious policing and security challenges, but to dealing with this unending cycle."

The Commissioner confirmed that she is not resigning in order to take up another job, despite saying that international colleagues had encouraged her to apply for the top job in Europol earlier this summer.

Ms O'Sullivan added that her focus is now on her family.

The Commissioner said that "being a Guard is the best job in the world".

"You're encountering people at the lowest points in their lives," she said.

"You can make a difference. As long as you avoid cynicism, you can make a profound difference - for the better - in other people's lives."

Ms O'Sullivan, the first female commissioner in the history of the Garda, said she notified Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Mr Flanagan of her intention to resign yesterday afternoon, after 36 years of "privileged, enjoyable and proud service".

Reform

Last night's resignation from the Garda Commissioner represents "an opportunity" to bring in necessary reform to An Garda Siochana, according to Fianna Fail's justice spokesperson Jim O'Callaghan.

"Her resignation means there has been some accountability within An Garda Siochana for the 1.5 million false breath tests recorded on the Garda Pulse system," he said.

Sinn Fein meanwhile has called for Ms O'Sullivan's replacement to be "somebody who is not already tainted by the current scandals".

The party's deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald said Sinn Fein "favours the appointment of somebody from a different jurisdiction".

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