Garda Commissioner pledges action on policing

Review of interim report of Fennelly commission expected to last months

Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan has ordered a review of the interim report of the Fennelly commission and has insisted “appropriate action” will be taken in any areas of policing that need to be addressed.

In a statement to The Irish Times, Ms O'Sullivan said the governance reform programme under way in the Garda would be modified if necessary.

"An Garda Síochána is currently examining the interim report of the Fennelly commission to identify any issues arising relating to An Garda Síochána," the statement said.

“Appropriate action will be taken to deal with any issues arising as part of ongoing reform of our governance and policy structures.”


Assistant Commissioner Dónall Ó Cualáin has been tasked with leading the review, which is expected to take a number of months.

He will interview any members of the Garda, either sworn officers or civilians, as part of his efforts to explore shortcomings highlighted by the commission.

However, it is understood the now retired former Garda commissioner Martin Callinan cannot be compelled to co-operate with the review.

It means the whereabouts of the Sim phone card the commission said most likely contained crucial information are unlikely to be established.

Mobile-phone information

The c

ommission’s interim report – into the departure from office of Mr Callinan – noted that “almost all [his] communication with the Department of Justice was through texts”.

Because of this “the information contained on the mobile phone of Mr Callinan was extremely relevant”.

However, after protracted efforts to establish what had happened to the former commissioner’s Sim card – the technology that would yield the text traffic – the commission was left empty-handed.

When the commission first asked Mr Callinan about the phone he said “he did not know where it was”.

Assistant Commissioner Jack Nolan, on behalf of Garda headquarters, told the commission "the phone had been returned to An Garda Siochana by Mr Callinan". He added "the Sim card had been removed and the phone then returned to Mr Callinan." Mr Nolan believed the card had subsequently been destroyed.

The commission then wrote to Mr Callinan and asked him to search for the phone.

“He found it and furnished it to the commission but it had no Sim card in it and no information stored on it,” the commission noted.

The commission went back to Mr Nolan, asking him to supply details about “how the Sim card had come to be destroyed and who had authorised this”.

When Mr Nolan replied, the Garda’s account of what happened to the Sim had changed significantly. It now said the Sim had never been returned to Garda headquarters by Mr Callinan.

Phone cancelled

Mr Nolan added the phone had been last used on April 16th, 2014, and was cancelled remotely on May 30th.

The commission then issued a discovery order – an order for information that must be complied with under law – to the service providers for Mr Callinan’s phone.

But while some metadata was accessed under that order, the text messages “were not retrievable”.

“The commission can only speculate as to whether any information of value to its investigation was lost because of these actions,” it said.

“What limited information it has been able to glean from Mr Callinan’s 2014 diary has been of value.”

However, while that diary was available, Mr Callinan’s diary for 2013 – the year when the taping scandal emerged and gathered pace – was never found.

Documentary evidence

And as well as the vital text messages being unavailable, the c

ommission noted generally it was “striking how little documentary evidence is available” from the key people and agencies.

It also emerged Mr Callinan had also put his personal papers beyond the reach of any curious eyes once he had departed.

On the afternoon of March 25th, when he announced his retirement, Mr Callinan placed his notebooks and personal files into between eight and 10 black bags.

These were stored by a superintendent at the request of Mr Callinan and on April 4th, some 10 days after he left office, all of the paperwork was shredded.

There was no suggestion by the commission that any official records were shredded with Mr Callinan’s personal papers that accrued over years.

Conor Lally

Conor Lally

Conor Lally is Security and Crime Editor of The Irish Times