Nóirín O’Sullivan defends closure of Garda stations

Policing Authority told new bureau seized €36m of drugs and 36 weapons in first year

Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan at the Policing Authority meeting for discussions about community safety.

The Garda Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau arrested more than 200 people in its first year of operation, the inaugural public meeting between the new Policing Authority and An Garda Síochána was told on Monday.

Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan told the authority the unit, amalgamated from the garda national drugs unit and the garda organised crime unit in March 2015, also seized €36 million worth of drugs and 36 weapons, including AK47s and Makarov pistols.

She defended the closure of Garda stations around the country. Garda focus was on engaging “rather than on bricks and mortar”, she said. The closures had been compensated for by “higher visible presence” in communities, she said, including through the use of clinics in communities, and increased patrols.

“We are making sure our people are out, engaged, as opposed to sitting behind desks,” she said.


Deputy Commissioner Donal O Cualáin, also speaking at the meeting, said in the west of Ireland, a region he was previously in charge of, there had been “by and large, a trouble free transition” in many areas where stations had closed.

Speaking on road deaths, Assistant Commissioner John O’Mahoney said there had been 50 so far this year, which was 50 too many. He said they hoped to bring the numbers down to 120 annually by 2020.

He also told the meeting, since January, there had been 40,000 speeding detections and 2,000 “seatbelt detections”. He conceded that the number of breath tests had reduced, but there had still been 1,833 detections of drink driving in the first three months of the year, compared to 1,765 for the same period last year.

The meeting also heard 17,000 people had applied to the force during the most recent recruitment drive for gardaí, down from 24,000 applications at the last round, in 2013.

Asked about recruitment among minorities, the commissioner said the most recent campaign reached out to all communities, and people from the LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual and intersex) community had been encouraged. She said there were 26 per cent of the force were women, but did not elaborate on any targets to increase that figure.

The meeting was told research, undertaken by the garda analysis team, had found 85 per cent of people trust gardaí. It also found there was 70 per cent satisfaction with gardaí. Women showed a slightly higher level of satisfaction, and satisfaction increased with age. The group showing lowest satisfaction, at 64 per cent, was aged between 18 and 24 years.

The Garda Commissioner said the research showed trust in gardaí had been “consistently high over the last four quarters”.

The first public meeting between the authority and gardaí, at the Royal Hospital Kilmainham, in Dublin, focussed on community safety. Members of the authority asked questions based on the objectives and initiatives set out in Priority 3 ‘Community Safety’ of the Garda Síochána Policing Plan 2016.

At the opening of the meeting, chairwoman of the authority, Josephine Feehily, described the meeting as "historic" and said it was "not an investigation", and she did not expect the garda team to have "every possible fact and figure at their fingertips".

“It is also important to say that oversight and accountability ought not be seen as focussing principally on fault-finding,” she said.

She said there were few public services more important than effective policing for the well-being of society, for community confidence and for security of the State.

The authority, which was established on January 1st this year is to hold at least four public meetings with gardaí each year.

Members of the public can apply to attend and the meetings will also be webcast live on the authority's website policingauthority.ie.

Fiona Gartland

Fiona Gartland

Fiona Gartland is a crime writer and former Irish Times journalist