Gardaí to rebuke Garda Commissioner at Agsi conference

Nóirín O’Sullivan faces criticism over her handling of the breath test scandal

Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan looks set for criticism from within the force over her handling of the phantom breath test controversy.

Many in the Garda were unhappy with remarks Ms O'Sullivan made to the joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice when she said everyone in the force was sorry for and embarrassed by the inflating of breath test data.

However, not all Garda members conduct breath tests and a much smaller number inputs testing data when a checkpoint is completed.

The Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (Agsi) looks set to articulate that point in public remarks to Ms O'Sullivan at its annual conference due to get under way on Monday morning in Killarney, Co Kerry.


Agsi president Antoinette Cunningham addresses delegates on Monday evening.

Ms Cunningham came to public prominence during what were regarded as impressive media performances during last year’s threatened Garda strike that resulted in a pay rise.

She is expected to raise in her remarks what many see as the unfair public blaming of her members and rank and file gardaí , rather than senior officers, for recent lapses.

Views on Ms O’Sullivan’s handling of the controversy are also expected to be aired during debate at the conference which continues on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Meanwhile, it has emerged Ms O'Sullivan in private strongly reprimanded a large group of chief superintendent officers at a meeting in Garda Headquarters, Phoenix Park, recently.

The meeting, attended by almost all 44 chiefs in the country, was called after it emerged the number of breath tests carried out between 2012 and 2016 was one million and not the two million claimed in Garda records.


The Irish Times understands she told the officers the inflating of data was “shameful” and “absolutely shocking” and that she was “stunned” at its sheer scale.

She voiced her annoyance that the Garda “hadn’t gotten to its 100-year anniversary” without a root and brand review of it being commissioned by Government.

Assistant Commissioner Michael Finn set out to the meeting the extent of the data inflating nationwide. Sources said some of the senior officers present clearly did not realise the significance of the problem in their areas.

While the data had been inflated by 100 per cent on average nationally, the figures showed some regions had inflated their data by less than five per cent.

However, others have been found to have inflated threefold the number of tests conducted.

Informed sources said Ms O’Sullivan spoke from the heart and in an emotional manner when outlining what the Garda meant to her and her family, and also the place it had in Irish society.

When the meeting, which took place last Wednesday week, was opened for officers to explain how the figures had been inflated so badly in their areas, some apologised in front of their colleagues.

Some believed a conversation with a motorist at a checkpoint, as a result of which a decision was taken not to breath test the driver, was counted as a test when data was later compiled.

Conor Lally

Conor Lally

Conor Lally is Security and Crime Editor of The Irish Times