Garda Commissioner initially refused to appear before Policing Authority

Nóirín O’Sullivan only backed down after the authority complained to Minister for Justice

Garda Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan initially refused to appear before the Policing Authority to answer questions about inflated drink-driving test figures and wrongful motoring convictions, it has emerged.

The commissioner only backed down after the authority wrote to complain to the Minister for Justice, Frances Fitzgerald, and sent a copy of its complaint to Ms O'Sullivan.

Her attempt to instead let her senior officers face public questioning from the authority on the tests and convictions controversy caused “considerable disquiet” among its members.

Documents show the commissioner held her ground that she would not be able to attend the meeting for questioning in public on April 27th. However, the authority insisted her stand was inappropriate given public concern.


The repeated demands by the authority that Ms O’Sullivan appear before it and its decision to contact Ms Fitzgerald strongly suggest a strained relationship.

The timeline and exact detail of what occurred is contained in the minutes, seen by The Irish Times, of behind-closed-doors Policing Authority meetings in March and April.

The public session heard questions about revelations that 14,700 motorists had been wrongfully convicted of varying offences, and alcohol breath test data had been inflated by 100 per cent.

The public hearing eventually took place the week before last and Ms O’Sullivan was present.

However, the minutes of the authority’s private meetings on March 27th and April 6th detail the battle over Ms O’Sullivan’s attendance.


A minute of a private meeting of authority staff offered the first indication of the authority learning that Ms O’Sullivan was not making herself available for questioning about roads policing during the public session.

It said there was “considerable disquiet” within the authority over the matter.

“In the context of the damage to public confidence, the [Policing Authority] chief executive was directed to communicate to the commissioner its strong view that this was not appropriate and to request that she reconsider her availability for that meeting,” the authority’s minutes note.

Later, in the minutes of another private meeting of authority staff on April 6th, it became clear Ms O’Sullivan was restating her position that she was not available.

The level of frustration within the Policing Authority over not being able to question Ms O’Sullivan in public on roads policing at a time of such deep public concern on the matter was again clear from the minutes.

Policing Authority chief executive Helen Hall briefed the meeting, chaired by Josephine Feehily, that Ms O'Sullivan had confirmed her non-availability for the public session of April 27th, "due to a scheduled European security meeting".


The minutes then state authority members “expressed disappointment” that she would not be present considering it had notified the commissioner in July 2016 when the public session on roads policing was to be held.

“Mindful of the ongoing damage to community confidence, members strongly expressed the importance of exercising its statutory responsibility of meeting the commissioner in public without undue delay in relation to the [mandatory alcohol tests and fixed charge notices] and other emerging performance issues,” the minutes state.

If further notes that the public session on April 27th had long had a roads policing theme and that a number of “civil society groups” had been invited to attend and had been consulted in advance.

It agreed to press ahead with the public session and the decision on whether to attend was one for the commissioner.

The authority members also decided Ms Feehily would write to Ms O'Sullivan and "convey its views" as well as forwarding a copy of that correspondence to Ms Fitzgerald.

Conor Lally

Conor Lally

Conor Lally is Security and Crime Editor of The Irish Times