Commissioner must go in best interests of Garda, says Sinn Féin

Mary Lou McDonald introduces party motion to remove Nóirín O’Sullivan from office

Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald says no inquiry will produce the required outcome as long as Ms O’Sullivan remains in office. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald says no inquiry will produce the required outcome as long as Ms O’Sullivan remains in office. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

 

Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan should be removed from office in the best interests of An Garda Síochána, Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald has said.

“The dysfunctionality at the heart of the management of An Garda Síochána cannot be tackled effectively, and we cannot hope to even begin the work of restoring confidence in the Garda, while Nóirín O’Sullivan remains on as boss,” said Ms McDonald.

She said she was saying that not in a personal sense but because of the position she held.

Ms McDonald was introducing her party’s motion in the Dáil on Wednesday calling for Ms O’Sullivan’s removal. The House will vote on the motion, which is being opposed by the Government and Fianna Fáil, on Thursday.

Ms McDonald said Ms O’Sullivan had been effectively given immunity by the Government and its “flip-flopping” partners, Fianna Fáil.

She said no inquiry into the force would produce the required outcome as long as Ms O’Sullivan remained in office.

Garda morale

Ms McDonald said morale within An Garda Síochána was at an all-time low and there was a malaise. Rank-and-file gardaí felt abandoned and disheartened and, for them, it must feel like being in a rudderless ship, she added.

It had not helped morale either that the commissioner had placed the blame for many of the recent debacles, which happened on her watch, on the shoulders of more junior officers.

Ms McDonald added it was “a case of sloping shoulders on the part of the commissioner” at a time when real leadership should be shown and responsibility taken for a litany of scandals.

“And now, shockingly, we hear today, in addition to the falsification of breath tests, that an examination is also being carried out into Garda figures relating to homicide and incidences of domestic violence,” she added. “Where will all this end ?”

Yet, said Ms McDonald, the commissioner and the Minister just passed the buck.

Tánaiste and Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald said while there were elements of the motion with which everyone in the House could agree, the central thesis must be rejected.

“Rather than focusing on the need to reform An Garda Síochána, it seeks to personalise the problems of the service by focusing on the Garda Commissioner,” she added.

Due process

Ms Fitzgerald said while it was one thing for the House to debate motions of no confidence in persons who could defend themselves in the House, it was another for it to insert itself into carefully calibrated legislation that was designed to observe due process and natural and constitutional justice, which was the right of any employee.

The Tánaiste said it would be a major departure if individual public servants had their reputations shredded in the House with no opportunity to put their side of the story.

Fianna Fáil justice spokesman Jim O’Callaghan said his party had stated publicly it could not express confidence in the commissioner.

“However, what we have to recognise is that the Dáil does not have either a statutory or a constitutional role in respect of the removal of a Garda Commissioner,” he added.

Green Party TD Catherine Martin said her party was prepared to act and support the motion, recognising the scale of the calamity within An Garda Síochána.

Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy said her party would also support the motion, adding the buck stopped with the commissioner in all disciplinary matters.