Profile: Garda Commissioner Noirín O’Sullivan

New head of force cut her teeth investigating Dublin drug gangs and studying with the FBI

Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins


Noirín O’Sullivan is the first woman in the history of the State to hold the office of Garda commissioner. Having joined the force in 1981, Ms O’Sullivan has more than 30 years of professional policing experience.

Her work with the Garda has spanned both operational and administrative areas. Much of her early years with the force involved undercover work investigating major drugs gangs.

She was promoted to superintendent in 2000 and served in the Garda College with responsibility for specialist training.

She also worked as a detective superintendent in the Garda National Drugs Unit, which is a specialist agency that investigates domestic and international drug trafficking. Its remit also includes strategically reducing the demand for drugs.

In 2003 she was promoted to chief superintendent and served as the head of the Garda Technical Bureau, which comprises experts in photography, ballistics, fingerprints and mapping. Using advanced equipment and techniques in the recovery and analysis of evidence, these teams investigate major and complicated crime scenes throughout the State.

Four years later she was promoted to assistant commissioner and served in the western region. She also worked in Human Resource Management.

In 2009 she was appointed assistant commissioner for crime and security, which comprises security and intelligence, liaison and protection, crime policy and administration, and the special detectives unit.

Two years later she was again promoted, this time to deputy commissioner of operations. When, on March 25th this year, former Garda commissioner Martin Callinan retired, she was made interim commissioner with immediate effect.

Ms O’Sullivan also has a lengthy list of academic achievements. She is a graduate of the FBI National Executive Institute’s law-enforcement course for police chiefs worldwide. She also holds first class honours in diploma and MA courses from the Michael Smurfit School of Business in UCD.

Last year, her son Ciaran McGowan graduated as a reserve at the Garda College, Templemore, along with 92 others.