Nóirín O’Sullivan criticises senior gardaí in AGSI address

Garda Commissioner says officers must ‘do better’ to restore public trust in the force

 Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan has told senior gardaí they ‘must do better’ to restore public confidence in the force. File photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan has told senior gardaí they ‘must do better’ to restore public confidence in the force. File photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

 

Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan has told senior gardaí they “must do better” to restore public confidence in the force.

In a defiant address to the annual conference of the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI) in Killarney, Co Kerry, on Tuesday, the Garda Commissioner said she was determined the current crises surrounding the force “would not be wasted” and the Garda would transform and “open up” under her commissionership.

“I’m here to tell you, frankly, that you must do better; much better, by the men and women that you lead,” she said.

However, she said she accepted that senior Garda management, herself included, must also “do better” by the ranks they lead.

In the address, she acknowledged “there is a crisis of confidence” in the Garda.

“The status quo is a bygone era. We can no longer mark time and hope for the best. The change we need to make has begun.”

She said that, while some of the problems being addressed by the force were unearthed because whistleblowers had come forward and protected disclosures had been made, a greater number of reforms had been identified and progressed by the Garda’s own volition.

Among the matters the Garda had had the “courage” to identify was the inflating of breath-test data, she said.

Ms O’Sullivan also stood by her assertion, which had been criticised by AGSI members, that the inflated breath-test data resulted from incompetence or deception by Garda members.

Delegates stood in silence as the commissioner entered the conference room to deliver her lengthy address. However, she received applause after she concluded her speech.

Ms O’Sullivan spoke uninterrupted, and mostly unscripted, for 45 minutes. She later took questions from conference delegates during a closed session.

However, neither Ms O’Sullivan nor the AGSI could offer any further information after that closed session as to how breath-testing figures had been inflated.

‘Fake news’

Ms Cunningham had addressed the conference earlier on Tuesday before Ms O’Sullivan.

Ms Cunningham told the conference that assertions by successive Garda commissioners that the force received all the resources it needed from the Government were “fake news at its best”.

She told delegates that the Garda was engulfed by several crises, yet the focus was on a “blame culture” rather than on leading the force out of its struggling position.

She said morale in the force was “sinking lower” and there was a “stink of negativity in the air” as her members went about their duties and tried to re-build the public’s trust.

Responding to Ms Cunningham’s comments, Ms O’Sullivan said the modernisation programme she was currently rolling out would take time to take effect.

She said the programme was much more than an “action plan”, a “glossy document and management-speak” or an “airy-fairy” concept.

“My absolute determination is that this crisis will not be wasted,” she said.

“An Garda Síochána will be transformed and will again become the authoritative institution it was founded to be.”

She said there would be a new “atmosphere of accountability” which would foster integrity and pride.

She said the Garda had not changed at the same rate as wider society in recent years.

She rejected the AGSI’s suggestion she had bypassed due process when she told the joint Oireachtas committee on justice that the inflating of breath-test figures was due to incompetence or deception by Garda members.

She said she planned during the closed session to ask the delegates their views as to how the inflating might have happened.

However, she said the investigations currently under way within the Garda into the inflating of breath-test data and the Policing Authority’s parallel inquiry into the scandal would unearth what had happened.

The commissioner said the investigations would find out where and how the wrong figures had been inputted and who was behind it.

The commissioner also said there had been many Garda successes in recent years.

Burglaries had decreased by 30 per cent via targeted policing, while millions of euro in cash and drugs had been seized from organised crime gangs, she said.

The Garda Commissioner noted how the force was growing in numbers, with 200 new recruits set to enter the Garda College, Templemore, Co Tipperary, later this month.

This would bring the number of recruits in training to just in excess of 1,000.

Another 2,000 people had applied to join the Garda Reserve as part of the recent recruitment drive, the Garda Commissioner said.