Acting Garda Commissioner makes way for ex-PSNI replacement
Minister thanks Ó Cualáin for ‘steady’ service to the State at opening of new Garda station
Acting Garda Commissioner Donall Ó Cualáin took part in his last public event on Thursday – the opening of Kevin Street Garda Station – three days before handing over to former PSNI officer Drew Harris.
Mr Ó Cualáin took over from Noirín O’Sullivan in September last year when she retired citing an “unending cycle” of investigations and inquiries which she said meant she could not devote enough time to bring about the “deep cultural and structural” reforms required to modernise An Garda.
His short tenure as Commissioner has been relatively uneventful compared with that of his predecessors.
The terms of Ms O’Sullivan and Martin Callinan before her were dogged by a seemingly endless series of garda scandals including the inflation of garda checkpoint numbers and the treatment of garda whistleblowers.
By contrast Mr Ó Cualáin offered what Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan called “steady and effective leadership”.
He saw his role as that of a caretaker who would oversee the current extensive programme of garda reform but refrain from making any momentous or controversial decisions, sources say.
However, he has also enjoyed significant success in certain areas including reducing the intensity of the ongoing Hutch-Kinahan feud which has claimed some 14 lives so far.
Soon after Ms O’Sullivan stepped down Mr Ó Cualáin said he wasn’t interested in becoming the permanent commissioner, leaving the Government to search for his successor from either inside or outside the force.
In the end, Mr Harris was hired despite concerns from some quarters about his close ties with the British intelligence agency MI5 while he was in the PSNI.
“I want today to acknowledge and publicly thank you for the many years of dedicated service you have given to the public and to the State,” Mr Flanagan told the acting commissioner on Thursday at the opening of the station.
“I and my colleagues in Government are grateful to you for the steady and effective leadership you have shown in the most challenging times.
“You and your team have led An Garda Síochána to significant successes in targeting and disrupting the abhorrent activities of criminal gangs over the past year. You have also made progress on the challenging reform agenda.”
Mr Ó Cualáin wished Mr Harris the very best “as he takes on the not inconsiderable challenges that he’s going to take on as garda commissioner”.
The new five-storey, 12,240 square foot divisional headquarters on Kevin Street will house over 200 gardaí and will be one of the most modern garda facilities in the country. It is the third new garda station to open this year after Galway and Wexford.
Artwork and quotations from famous literary figures decorate the walls, including the Oscar Wilde quote “I can resist everything except temptation”.
“It’s a quote which is not only reflective of some members of An Garda Síochána but also some of our clientele,” Superintendent John Gordon joked during the opening.
The old garda station next door, which was previously the Archbishop’s Place in medieval times, will be refurbished and maintained by the Office of Public Works and made available for future garda use.