Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan vows new dawn

Highly critical Garda Inspectorate report will be ‘road map’ for the future, says O’Sullivan

Nóirín O’Sullivan: does not underestimate the body of work to do in the coming weeks and years. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

Nóirín O’Sullivan: does not underestimate the body of work to do in the coming weeks and years. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

 

New Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan defended her appointment to the position following recent controversies and pledged to use the highly critical Garda Inspectorate report as a “roadmap” for the future of the force.

Ms O’Sullivan was speaking to reporters at Garda Headquarters in the Phoenix Park after it was announced on Tuesday she had been offered the position following an open international competition.

She said the Garda had been through an “unprecedented time” following a string of controversies and a number of critical reports into Garda malpractice and abuse of process.

“The Inspectorate report is a very useful report and provides a very useful roadmap in terms of what we need to do in the very immediate and also what we can do incrementally,” she said.

“It feeds into a programme of reform we’ve been working on for the past number of months.”

She said rank and file gardaí have been “hurting” as a result of the controversies and part of the task before her would be to lift morale.

“I’ve already started to address it – going around the country meeting our people,” she said.

“People have been hurting. We’ve gone through a huge roller-coaster of uncertainty and we’ve been through an unprecedented time.

“There are certainly things that we have to do differently. There are lessons. I don’t underestimate the big body of work that we have to do in the coming weeks and months and years.”

The move has drawn criticism from some quarters, with Garda whistleblower John Wilson calling the appointment of an insider a missed opportunity to change a “poisonous and hateful culture” within the force.

“On a personal basis I wish her well, but I have called repeatedly for the appointment of an outsider,” he said.

“As far as I am concerned she will be judged by her actions, but she cannot detach herself from the gross dysfunctionality highlighted in the Garda Inspectorate report, along with the various other damning indictments of Garda management published over the last 12 months.”

Responding to that criticism, Ms O’Sullivan said her experience having risen through the ranks of the Garda would give her a “distinct advantage” in the role.

“I know the organisation,” she said. “I know the people in the organisation. But also, importantly, I know and understand the community. I certainly know the things that need to be done to improve the service that we provide. It’s important to say that we will build on the strong traditions that have served the State well to this point.”

She said one of her priorities would be to place victims at the centre of what the force does.

“Unfortunately in any society there will be victims and we need to make sure that some of the issues in the Inspectorate report are dealt with and that we put victims at the centre of everything we do,” she said.

“Most importantly, when crime happens, it must be investigated thoroughly and professionally.”

In terms of breaking with the culture of the past, Ms O’Sullivan said this would be demonstrated “by the way we do our business” – but that there were also “many good things” about the culture of the past that would be developed.

“One of the priorities will certainly be around having standardisation and consistency because, again, the Inspectorate report points out there are pockets of really good practice. Indeed they do say there have been instances where victims of domestic violence that have been dealt with very fairly and with great understanding and empathy by members of the Garda.

Our focus is to make sure that that consistent and standardised service is provided right throughout the organisation.”

She said dealing with members of the force who do not comply with protocol is to be something she is “certainly very focused on” and that the Professional Standards Unit would monitor compliance with policy, which will be set from headquarters.