Charlie Flanagan criticises Garda for penalty point report delay

Minister awaiting study on false breath tests and errors issuing fixed-charge penalty fines

Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan: said he understood Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan was on annual leave. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan: said he understood Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan was on annual leave. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

 

Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan has criticised An Garda Síochána for the delay in providing a report on the exaggeration of breath tests and fixed-charge penalty notices scandal.

The Minister was due to receive a report before July 31st on how one million false breath tests were recorded on the Garda Pulse system and almost 15,000 motorists were convicted in error over fixed-charge penalty fines.

Mr Flanagan, who said he had yet to receive the report, said it was vitally important to get answers and understand the process that led to this systematic failure.

“I believe it’s important that these issues be addressed and that’s why I’m looking forward to receiving the report,” he said on Wednesday.

“I’ll be making a public statement as soon as I’ve had the opportunity of evaluating the content therein. It is a matter of public concern and I want to see it dealt with.”

Mr Flanagan’s comments follow criticism by the Policing Authority over the delay. Chairwoman Josephine Feehily has expressed “intense frustration and impatience” with the failure to provide an explanation.

The Minister said he understood Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan was on annual leave, but he expected the report to be delivered within a matter of weeks.

Mr Flanagan was also questioned about media reports Ms O’Sullivan is in line to secure a senior position with the European Union law enforcement agency Europol. The role in the area of specialist operations becomes available in November, meaning the commissioner could vacate her position as soon as next month.

Confidence in Garda Commissioner

The Minister declined to comment on whether he was aware of her candidacy for the position. He instead repeated his confidence in the commissioner, insisting she would be the person to lead An Garda Síochána on a radical reform programme.

“My understanding is that the Garda Commissioner is on leave,” he said.

“She is expected back at her desk I’m sure, in early September. And I look forward to working with her on the matter of her ambitious reform programme for An Garda Síochána. We’ve some very difficult challenges at the highest level in An Garda Síochána.”

The commissioner sought a six-week leave of absence from the force and is scheduled to return to work on September 4th. Ms O’Sullivan’s decision to take an extended break became known as the Oireachtas Public Accounts Committee issued a strongly critical report on the Garda college in Templemore.

Her decision to leave at a critical juncture was strongly criticised by some politicians but Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has offered her his ongoing support.

Ms O’Sullivan is due to appear before a public meeting of the Policing Authority on September 28th when it will consider the Garda review of the Jobstown investigation and the exaggeration of homicide figures.

Speaking as he launched a new gender pay review, the Minister also stressed there was no evidence of any terrorism threat to Ireland.

Mr Flanagan said the Garda Commissioner had attended a meeting of the new National Security Committee, and the Government continued to receive full and detailed briefings.

“We have no evidence of any likely threat to Ireland or Irish society. Having said that, there is absolutely no room for complacency. We must at all times remain vigilant.”