Tough game of senior hurling at Policing Authority session

Garda commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan and authority chair Josephine Feehily face off

Assistant Garda Commissioner Michael Finn (centre) at a public session of the Policing Authority in Dublin Castle on Thursday. Photograph: Colin Keegan/Collins

Garda Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan has weathered the storms of the last couple of months, showing a streak too tough to be pushed out by the politicians in Leinster House.

But when the ball was thrown in to commence a public session of the Policing Authority on Thursday, it was senior hurling all the way.

And while O'Sullivan has proven strong all over the park in the heat of combat of late, it was authority chair Josephine Feehily striking the ball hardest and quickest and collecting scores at will.

These were testing exchanges on the frontline where policing meets oversight. And Feehily was in rare form.


On briefing material about homicides categorised incorrectly by the Garda, Feehily said: “We received much of the material far too late to give it proper consideration; in one case 8:30 last night.

“But I want to assure you that we will be considering it this afternoon and we will be responding to you.”


Becoming exasperated about the homicide matter and the Garda review of same later, Feehily asked the senior Garda officers present: “Do you have a thing called a report that has a start and an end that we could have a copy of?”

When O’Sullivan protested that the homicide data wasn’t even on the agenda for yesterday’s meeting, Feehily closed her down.

“There can be no doubt that this matter was going to be raised with you today,” she told the commissioner.

“At our policing performance committee it was made very clear we would be asking about it. And in fact, yesterday’s newspapers told us that you would be telling us about it.

“So the fact that we didn’t list every single . . . question on an agenda does not mean that it won’t be raised. The raising of this issue was flagged a number of weeks ago.”

When O’Sullivan suggested the Policing Authority may be able to help the Garda as it struggled to hire more civilian staff in the data analysis area, Feehily didn’t even wait until she had finished speaking.

“Commissioner, sorry, I have to interrupt you,” she said, adding the Government had made it clear there was scope to hire 500 civilian professionals into the Garda.

“We’re waiting for the business cases. We haven’t received a pitch from you for resources for the analysis services. So, sorry, but you have to ask us.”

Testing session

It was a testing session for the Garda officers. They were forced to accept there was no legal definition of a Garda checkpoint.

And though insisting all road fatalities and serious collisions were recorded properly, Assistant Commissioner Mick Finn then immediately conceded there was no clear definition of what constituted a serious collision.

Towards the end, authority member Patrick Costello asked O'Sullivan for examples to prove her modernisation and reform programme was having a real impact.

She cited the recommencement of Garda recruitment, the hiring of new civilian professionals, the securing of addition vehicles and roll-out of a new Armed Support Unit for Dublin.

However, she clearly hadn’t impressed Costello as much as she’d hoped. He said everyone would expect her to “fight for” additional personnel and vehicles.

Executing the goal of providing training about the new Garda code to every member was an example of the significant reforms he was hoping for.

“The more big things like that you could deliver earlier would give everybody confidence that real change and real reform was happening.”