Fitzgerald facing no confidence motion over Garda chief

FF, Sinn Féin and Labour criticise Minister for Justice’s support of Nóirín O’Sullivan

Pressure is mounting on Tánaiste and Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald to remove Garda Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan from office or face a motion of no confidence.

Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin and Labour all strongly criticised Ms Fitzgerald for supporting the commissioner's retention in her role.

Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald and the party’s spokesman on justice Jonathan O’Brien confirmed they would consider tabling a motion of no confidence.

Frances Fitzgerald has adopted a strategy of putting her head down and hoping it will go away

However, both stressed the immediate priority was to ensure Ms O’Sullivan did not continue in her position.

Ms McDonald said it was quite obvious a change in leadership in An Garda Síochána and the Department of Justice was required.

“Frances Fitzgerald has adopted a strategy of putting her head down and hoping it will go away. It is not going to go away,” she said.

Fianna Fáil's spokesman on justice Jim O'Callaghan and Labour leader Brendan Howlin also stressed the Minister for Justice's position was becoming untenable.

Financial irregularities

Ms Fitzgerald has publicly supported the commissioner despite concerns about her knowledge of financial irregularities at Templemore Garda college.

A spokesman for the Tánaiste said the position had not changed and Ms O’Sullivan retained the full confidence of the Government.

Mr Howlin said Ms Fitzgerald was a well-respected politician but had become an impediment to doing the right thing.

The country needed political leadership on the issue of policing and there should be consequences for Ms Fitzgerald if she does not provide it, he added.

Speaking at the annual James Connolly commemoration in Dublin, Mr Howlin said: "Her [Ms Fitzgerald's] position will become increasingly untenable if that leadership does not manifest in the coming days."

Ms Fitzgerald was unaware of allegations of financial irregularities at Templemore Garda college until October 2016.

The Garda Commissioner had been instructed by her legal adviser to inform her in July 2015, but failed to do so for a further 15 months.

Ms Fitzgerald’s department was also aware of the allegations in October 2015, but did not inform her.

Breakdown in communication

The Tánaiste has failed to criticise the commissioner for the breakdown in communication.

Two Cabinet Ministers insisted Ms Fitzgerald and the Garda Commissioner retained their full support.

Minister for Communications Denis Naughten and Minister of State at the Department of Health Finian McGrath publicly backed them both.

Mr Naughten said the removal of one individual would not solve the root and branch problems the Garda faces.

“I do not think it is appropriate that this drags on either. I think the reform needs to begin immediately.”

Ms Fitzgerald will bring the final terms of reference for the independent examination of the Garda.

Kathleen O’Toole is to chair the commission but the identity of the members has not yet been finalised.

The root-and-branch reform will focus on the culture and ethos of the force, recruitment and training, management structures and the oversight of An Garda Síochána.

Mr Naughten said he would support the separation of policing and security in the State.