herald

Sunday 4 December 2016

'I won't sack under-fire garda chief', Minister for Justice tells Dail

Garda chief Noirin O’Sullivan. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Garda chief Noirin O’Sullivan. Photo: Gerry Mooney

The Government has backed under-fire Garda Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan after opposition TDs called for her to be sacked.

In the Dail yesterday there were also calls for the Commissioner to stand aside while allegations that garda whistleblowers were abused are investigated.

However, Tanaiste and Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald said that the garda chief was entitled to the Government's full confidence.

Independents 4 Change TD Mick Wallace called for the Justice Minister to sack the Commissioner. He said there was evidence that Ms O'Sullivan was aware of efforts to discredit and harass whistleblowers in An Garda Siochana.

New allegations about garda treatment of whistleblowers, particularly Sgt Maurice McCabe, who uncovered penalty points mishandling by some gardai, have emerged this week.

Superintendent David Taylor has claimed that senior garda management orchestrated a campaign to discredit the character of Sgt McCabe.

Mr Taylor detailed his claims in a protected disclosure to the Justice Minister this week.

It's understood he has also claimed in his disclosure that Ms O'Sullivan was made aware of the campaign through text messages and other means.

Condemn

The allegations contradict a statement by Commissioner O'Sullivan this week, during which she said she was "not privy to nor approved of" any action targeting an officer in the force.

She said she would "condemn any such action" and reiterated her stance that any employee's concerns "will be taken seriously and the matters examined". A spokesman for the Commissioner last night reaffirmed her position.

Fianna Fail TD Charlie McConalogue and Sinn Fein's Mary Lou McDonald said those at the centre of fresh allegations had said they would not cooperate with any new inquiries as long as the Commissioner remained in office.

Mr McConalogue wanted to know what the Minister would do in that case. Ms McDonald said there was no legal bar to the Commissioner standing aside for a time.

The Justice Minister said gardai provided good service to the community "but for all their strengths, I have recognised that fundamental reforms are necessary".

She added that the Government was going to investigate the most recent allegations involving whistleblowers and would proceed as quickly as possible. However, she insisted due process must respect everyone's legal rights.

"Is an accusation now sufficient to secure a conviction? Is that what you're suggesting?" Ms Fitzgerald asked.

"No findings of wrongdoing of any kind have been made against the Garda Commissioner. I believe, in those circumstances, she is entitled to our full confidence."

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