O’Sullivan denies asking garda about view on left ‘extremism’

Senior garda says he was taken aback by questioning during job interviews

Garda Commissioner Noirín O’Sullivan denies asking a senior garda about his views on ‘left wing political extremism in Ireland’ during a job interview. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

Garda Commissioner Noirín O’Sullivan denies asking a senior garda about his views on ‘left wing political extremism in Ireland’ during a job interview. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

 

Garda Commissioner Noirín O’Sullivan denies asking a senior garda about his views on “left wing political extremism in Ireland” during interviews for the position of Deputy Commissioner, the High Court has heard.

Asst Commissioner John Fintan Fanning claims he was also asked his views on left-wing politicians and was “taken aback” and “uncomfortable” about the questions.

In proceedings alleging an “unfair” competition was held for the post, he also alleges Commissioner O’Sullivan should have declared a potential conflict of interest prior to the interviews and recused herself from them.

Recent media reports suggested three candidates intended to be recommended to the Government for appointment were the same three Assistant Commissioners whom Commissioner O’Sullivan personally selected last July to be acting Deputy Commissioners, he claims.

Paul McGarry SC, for Asst Comm Fanning, secured permission from Mr Justice Paul Gilligan last week to serve short notice of his proceedings brought against the Public Appointments Service, Ireland and the Attorney General.

In his proceedings, Asst Comm Fanning seeks an injunction restraining the PAS taking any further steps, pending the outcome of his case, in appointing any persons as Deputy Commissioner. He also wants declarations the procedures adopted for recruitment to that post infringed his constitutional rights, including to fair procedures and natural justice.

When the matter returned before Mr Justice Gilligan, Conor Power SC, for the respondents, asked for time to fully respond to Asst Comm Fanning’s allegations.

They were also anxious the injunction application, which was subject of much media comment, be heard as soon as possible, counsel said. Commissioner O’Sullivan and the members of the interview panel refute the claims made by Asst Comn Fanning, he said.

The respondents would give an undertaking not to appoint any persons as Deputy Commissioners until the injunction application is heard, Mr Power said.

The judge adjured the matter for one week for mention after which a date for the hearing of the injunction application may be fixed.

In his action, Asst Comm Fanning claims, during his March 10th interview for the position, he had, in response to a question from another member of the interview panel, discussed the threat from the terrorist group ISIS and domestic terrorism.

He said Commissioner O’Sullivan later asked him about “left wing political extremism in Ireland” and what were his views in relation to left wing politicians. He said he was “uncomfortable” being asked such a question as he was conscious he has a statutory obligation not to affiliate or associate with any political group. He believed it was wrong to ask a question at interview in relation to his political views.

He attempted to deal with the question as best he could and he discussed the anti-austerity and water protests and the recent incident involving Labour Leader and Tánaiste Joan Burton in Tallaght, he said.

He considered the line of questioning “very unfair” and presented to the interview board a picture that included reference to his possible political views. He did not believe other candidates were asked a similar type of question, he added.

He was informed the following day he had not been successful at the interview, he said. It became apparent the entire process was “flawed” and there appeared to be confusion within the highest level within the PAS over how the competition was to be conducted, he said.