Former Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan appointed to senior UN role

UN has appointed her Assistant Secretary-General for Safety and Security

Former Garda commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan has been appointed to a senior security post in the United Nations.

News of her appointment to the role as UN Assistant Secretary General for Safety and Security emerged on the same day Garda whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe confirmed he was retiring from the force.

Ms O’Sullivan resigned suddenly and with no notice just over a year ago. She had been under pressure over the Garda’s handling of Sgt McCabe and his whistleblowing.

And while that controversy had begun long before she became commissioner, her tenure at the head of the Garda was dogged by it.

Earlier this month she was exonerated by the Disclosures Tribunal of mistreating Sgt McCabe and of helping to orchestrate a smear campaign against him.

In a report which severely criticised her predecessor, Martin Callinan, and the former head of the Garda Press Office, Supt David Taylor, the tribunal chairman Mr Justice Peter Charleton found Ms O'Sullivan was not party to efforts to discredit Sgt McCabe by briefing the media and politicians against him.

However, he rejected one portion of her evidence and found another to be “improbable”.

Her new role with the United Nations involves overseeing the safety of UN facilities, including its headquarters in New York, and of all its staff globally.

It is a challenging role in that many UN staff visit and work permanently in conflict zones worldwide.

Just over a month after departing as Garda commissioner in September 2017, it was announced she would take up a role of director of strategic partnerships for Europe with the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP).

However, her new role is a much more significant one. It was advertised at the end of last year and women candidates were “strongly urged to apply”.

Ms O’Sullivan (58) is a married mother of three grown up sons. Her husband, Jim McGowan, is a serving chief superintendent.

By the time she had departed the Garda she had been a member of the force for 36 years.

When announcing she was retiring from the force in September 2017 she said she was stepping down because the “unending cycle” of investigations and inquiries meant she could not devote enough time to bring about the “deep cultural and structural” reforms required to modernise An Garda.

“It has become clear, over the last year, that the core of my job is now about responding to an unending cycle of requests, questions, instructions and public hearings involving various agencies including the Public Accounts Committee, the Justice and Equality Committee, the Policing Authority, and various other inquiries, and dealing with inaccurate commentary surrounding all of these matters,” she added at the time.

She was the Garda’s first female commissioner and secured the top Garda job after an international competition which involved headhunting suitable international candidates.

Ms O’Sullivan was deputy commissioner when Martin Callinan departed suddenly from the office of Garda commissioner in March 2014.

The Government appointed Ms O’Sullivan as acting commissioner and in November 2014 she was appointed on a full-time permanent basis.

In announcing her appointed on Wednesday, the United Nations said she would bring to the role “extensive experience in international safety and security management, strategic management and leadership”.

The UN statement continued: “She is a leader in partnership building, leading teams and able to manage complexity and to drive strategic change.

“She also brings an in-depth knowledge of international security, crisis management, strategic and institutional leadership and gender issues to the position.”

She holds a Master of Business Studies (MBS) in strategic management and planning from the Michael Smurfit School of Business, UCD. She also holds a BA in police management from the University of Limerick.

Conor Lally

Conor Lally

Conor Lally is Security and Crime Editor of The Irish Times