FF to decide position on O’Sullivan after committee appearance

Jim O’Callaghan wants to know ‘dominant reasons’ why ‘false’ breath test recorded

Fianna Fáil will revisit its position towards Noirin O’Sullivan’s tenure  after she appears at an  Oireachtas committee  this week. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

Fianna Fáil will revisit its position towards Noirin O’Sullivan’s tenure after she appears at an Oireachtas committee this week. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

 

Fianna Fáil will revisit its position towards Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan’s tenure at the top of the force after her expected appearance at an Oireachtas committee later this week.

Jim O’Callaghan, the party’s justice spokesman, said on Tuesday Ms O’Sullivan and other senior members of the force must know some of the “dominant reasons” why one million breath tests that never happened were recorded on the Garda Pulse system.

The commissioner is under huge pressure after it emerged that the number of breath tests carried out between 2011 and 2016 was only 1 million, rather than the 2 million recorded on Pulse.

It has also emerged that 14,700 people were falsely convicted after almost 147,000 drivers were prosecuted even though a penalty point notice had not been issued.

Mr O’Callaghan said the errors in the breath test figures “is within the force. The force must now what is the reason for the false breath tests, and it is not satisfactory to say we will investigate it and we will get back to you.”

He also said Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald must tell the Dáil what she knew about the controversy, and when she was first told. Mr O’Callaghan repeated the Fianna Fáil position that it is not in a position to express confidence in Ms O’Sullivan.

The commissioner is expected to appear before the Oireachtas Justice Committee on Thursday to answer questions on the issue.

Fianna Fáil finance spokesman Michael McGrath said the commissioner will again have the opportunity to outline why a million extra breath tests were recorded.

“Hopefully the commissioner will attend before the Justice Committee on Thursday,” Mr McGrath said.

“What if the answers aren’t satisfactory and where does that take us? Obviously we’ll review our options at that pointy but we are not at that point. Thus far the answers have not been satisfactory.

“It is not a race to a certain end point here. The process is important. The Garda Commissioner has been given a number of opportunities already to provide satisfactory answers to what is a very important public issue.”

The Labour Party and Solidarity, formerly AAA, also announced that they plan to table motions of no confidence in Ms O’Sullivan.

Sinn Féin’s spokesman on justice and equality Jonathan O’Brien has said Fianna Fáil has to decide either to support the removal of the commissioner or to allow her to stay “in situ”.

He contradicted Mr O’Callaghan, who says that the Oireachtas does not have the power to remove the Garda Commissioner.

Mr O’Brien said that the Government can use legislation to remove the commissioner and that Fianna Fáil needs “to get off the fence”.

“I don’t believe leaving her in place is the solution,” he told RTÉ’s News at One. “She has known since 2014 about these problems. If it wasn’t for the Road Safety Authority would the gardaí have been aware of what was happening?”