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Garda Commissioner lashes media after resigning

Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan. photo.


By Evan Short

Embattled Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan hit out at the media as she announced she would be stepping down from the role and retiring from the force.

O’Sullivan said in a statement that trying to implement structural reforms while being subjected to repeated questions on various scandals that have plagued the organization in recent years – from Maurice McCabe to false DUI tests – made doing her job impossible.

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“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,” O’Sullivan 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 modernize and reform an organization of 16,000 people and rectify the failures and mistakes of the past, 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.”

Commissioner O’Sullivan said she had been encouraged to apply for the top role in European policing agency EUROPOL but was instead planning to cease work for the foreseeable future.

She said she was proud of her 36-year-record with the force.

"Being a Guard is the best job in the world. You’re committed to the public good. You’re encountering people at the lowest points in their lives. 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.”

The commissioner has been under pressure for the last year after she was accused of being part of a whispering campaign against whistleblower Maurice McCabe. He had publicized a number of occasions were members of the establishment had penalty points for traffic infringements removed from their driver’s license.

O’Sullivan denied any part in denigrating Garda McCabe’s name.

This week it was revealed that gardaí had “inflated” the number of breath tests carried out between 2009 and 2017 by almost 70,000 to improve statistics.

Meanwhile, the Irish Echo understands An Garda Síochána will look to an outside candidate to replace outgoing Commissioner Noírín O’Sullivan who has announced she is to retire.

A source told the Echo that there was a feeling within government that an outside appointment could be what is needed to set the organization up for the future.

When O’Sullivan was appointed she was on a three person shortlist with the other two thought to have been from forces outside the jurisdiction.

“Noírín was seen as something new but in the end she was really a company woman and that didn’t help during the scandals,” the source said.

“When the criticism started she closed ranks and that didn’t look well. An outside appointment would be able to carry out reforms without having any baggage from the past.”

Amid the fallout from O’Sullivan’s resignation, meanwhile, the Irish government is coming to terms with her surprise decision to take leave of her job

O’Sullivan is the second commissioner to resign in the past three years.

There had been growing call in the recent months for the commissioner to resign.

The salary of the Garda Commissioner may now be increased to attract a candidate, possibly from outside the Republic of Ireland.

Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan said the recruitment process will be decided by the Policing Authority.

“I believe it is an opportunity, upon the appointment of a new commissioner, that perhaps we broaden the base, that we have a look at the labor market and that we ultimately lead to the appointment of an expert and somebody who is best placed in order to complete the root and branch program of modernization and change that is underway.”