O'Sullivan may go before special sitting of committee over Templemore

Fitzgerald backs Garda Commissioner to address 'deep-seated issues'

Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald has been criticised for supporting the Garda Commissioner’s retention in her role. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald has been criticised for supporting the Garda Commissioner’s retention in her role. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

 

The Oireachtas Public Accounts Committee may hold special sittings before the end of this month to re-examine Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan on the extent of her knowledge of financial irregularities at Templemore Garda College. 

The committee had originally invited the Garda Commissioner to attend its meeting on July 13th as part of its inquiry into the inflated Garda breath-test figures controversy. 

However, at its meeting on May 4th, a senior civilian employee in the Garda – director of human resources John Barrett – gave an account of a meeting on the Templemore college issue that contradicted Ms O’Sullivan’s account of how and when she became aware of financial irregularities in the Garda training college. 

Members of the PAC said on Monday they wanted the Garda Commissioner to come before it at a much earlier date to respond to that controversy. 

Its chair, Sean Fleming (Fianna Fáil), said the committee would decide on Thursday what witnesses, besides the Garda Commissioner, it would recall and the programme of work that would be involved. 

Two committee members, Alan Kelly (Labour) and Catherine Connolly (Independent) said they wanted the Garda Commissioner to attend as soon as possible. 

Special sittings
In Mr Kelly’s case, he said it should happen as early as next week if possible, and argued that the committee could convene special sittings if necessary. 

Ms Connolly said she wanted the hearing to be held “as quickly as possible". She said the committee “was not happy to wait until July given the urgency and import of the matter”.

Meanwhile, Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald said on Monday she continued to support the Garda Commissioner and had no objective evidence that Ms O’Sullivan had done anything wrong. 

Ms Fitzgerald is facing increasing political pressure over her support for Ms O’Sullivan as the force remains dogged by a series of controversies. 

Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin and Labour have all strongly criticised Ms Fitzgerald for supporting the Garda Commissioner’s retention in her role.

Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald and the party’s spokesman on justice Jonathan O’Brien confirmed they would consider tabling a motion of no confidence.


Political expediency
Ms Fitzgerald said “while of course the Opposition are going to ramp up the pressure and use the commissioner to ramp up pressure indeed on me, I would say that politics and political expediency aren’t going to sort out the very deep-seated issues in relation to An Garda Síochána”. 

“I would also say that when you shine a light you see a lot of things that have been kept in the dark for a long period, and by previous governments indeed.

“The issues for example like Templemore and [phone] interception – the interception issues go back to the early 2000s with Fianna Fáil in government for 11 of the last 17 years. 

“Templemore, we had reports in 2008, 2009; what action was taken then? And the idea that somehow you blame people who are trying to shine a light and do the current reforms is simply not the way that we are going to get real reform.”