Outsider might be best placed to lead Garda, says O’Loan

Former police ombudsman says new commissioner must show ‘integrity is not negotiable’

Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan has said that the Policing Authority would advertise within weeks to find a candidate to replace outgoing Garda Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan. Video: Bryan O'Brien

 

An outsider might be best placed to replace Nóirín O’Sullivan as Garda commissioner, Northern Ireland’s former police ombudsman has said.

Baroness Nuala O’Loan, who was police ombudsman from 1999-2007, said a candidate from outside the force would have a “better opportunity in doing the job” given the scale of the problems in An Garda Síochána at present.

However, she said that whoever gets the job should be appointed on merit.

She identified raising morale in the force as a priority for the new commissioner along with ensuring that “every single member of An Garda Síochána understands that the law applies to them and that integrity is not negotiable”.

Baroness O’Loan told RTÉ Radio 1’s The News at One programme that an outsider would not come with the “historic baggage of what had gone before”. The suitable candidate would need vision and determination but also a “fairly thick skin who can go ahead and do what has to be done”.

Baroness O’Loan said Ms O’Sullivan’s resignation was “inevitable” given the scandals affecting the force.

She suggested a “culture of impunity” must have existed in the force to allow the scale of falsification of records with 15,000 wrongful motoring convictions and 1.5 million false breath tests over a six-year period.

“There was a sense that nobody outside the organisation knew what was going on,” she said. “And then when there was a tendency towards corruption and wrongdoing, there was a feeling nobody was going to check it out. Nobody is going to challenge anything.

“It is almost incredible to the people of Ireland that the police could have been responsible for this kind of activity and nothing [was] done about it.

“When you get that level of wrongdoing in a force and that level of failure, I think her going was inevitable.”

Statement

In her resignation statement, Ms O’Sullivan said her job seemed to consist of responding to an “unending cycle of requests, questions, instructions and public hearings involving various agencies including the Public Accounts Committee, the Justice and Equality Committee, the Policing Authority, and various other inquiries”.

Baroness O’Loan said being accountable for the delivery of the police service to “people who are entitled to ask her questions” is what she was appointed to do as Garda commissioner. “That’s the job.”

She added: “The job will be for a new commissioner to address the issues. They need somebody who has extensive experience, who has experience of change and the determination to bring about change and the capacity to bring the service with them.”