Changing culture within Garda ‘imperative’, says O’Sullivan

Garda chief faces Policing Authority watchdog at public meeting on O’Higgins findings

 Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan has  said the Garda has been described as insular, defensive and resistant to change, but that cultural change is taking place.  File photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan has said the Garda has been described as insular, defensive and resistant to change, but that cultural change is taking place. File photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

 

It will not be possible to change the culture in An Garda Síochána overnight, but renewing that culture is “imperative”, the Garda commissioner has said.

Speaking at the opening of a public meeting with the Policing Authority on Monday, where she faced questions about issues raised by the O’Higgins commission, Nóirín O’Sullivan said the force has been described as insular, defensive and resistant to change, but that cultural change is taking place.

Changes included a new approach to training gardaí and improvements to Pulse, the Garda computer system, she said.

Gardaí would be given the tools and supports they need to do their jobs, she continued.

“We will learn the lessons, we will improve and we will ensure those mistakes will not be repeated,” she said.

O’Higgins report

The meeting, at the Kings Inns, Dublin, is focusing on issues raised in the O’Higgins report.

Mr Justice Kevin O’Higgins investigated allegations put forward by Garda whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe, and found failures in policing. His report was published last month.

Last month, following a private, four-hour meeting with the commissioner, the authority, charged with overseeing the performance of An Garda Síochána, raised its concerns about the commission’s findings.

In a statement following the private meeting, the authority said it was dismayed at the familiarity of performance failures through various reports and inquiries. It said it was deeply uneasy at the “organisation and management culture” in An Garda Síochána.

It said there was a need for an urgent response to the report’s findings and recommendations.

“The Policing Authority believes that the performance issues raised by the report are fundamental to effective policing performance,” it said.

“These issues include service to victims, culture, training and formation, issues of governance, management and supervision.”

Transparency and community confidence

It said that, in the interests of transparency and community confidence in gardaí, a more detailed examination of specific issues should take place in public at two meetings, the second of which will be held on June 30th.

The meetings are likely to focus on service to victims, protected disclosure and culture, and may also examine the O’Higgins recommendations in the context of previous reviews.

The authority also said it expects to see a formal response from gardaí to the findings and recommendations made in the O’Higgins report.

Speaking earlier this month, the commissioner said she welcomed a public session with the authority.

She said the meeting would demonstrate to the public that lessons had been learned as a result of the O’Higgins report, and that adequate investment, which was “badly needed”, was coming on stream.