Growing list of issues where Nóirín O’Sullivan’s account contradicted

Analysis: Resignation of second Garda commissioner could be politically catastrophic

As Garda controversy follows Garda controversy, Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald is risking her own political future by  protecting  Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

As Garda controversy follows Garda controversy, Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald is risking her own political future by protecting Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

 

When former Garda commissioner Martin Callinan resigned in 2014 after a visit at home from the then secretary general of the Department of Justice, the Cabinet had little to lose.

They had an overwhelming majority in the Dáil preserving the Government from collapse.

Brian Purcell told Mr Callinan the Cabinet was meeting the following day and would not be in a position to express confidence in him due to deep disquiet over his description of two Garda whistleblowers, Sgt Maurice McCabe and Garda John Wilson.

Mr Callinan jumped before he was pushed.

It was not an ideal situation but it did not carry the same level of threat for the government as the resignation or forced retirement of Nóirín O’Sullivan.

Ms O’Sullivan’s appointment as commissioner was criticised from the beginning. She was labelled as an insider from those on the outside, while internally she divided opinion.

From the beginning of her tenure, the Government sought to protect Ms O’Sullivan from the immediate onslaught of criticism.

Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald and Taoiseach Enda Kenny were forced to defend her appointment and her actions far too often. Ms Fitzgerald has stressed Ms O’Sullivan emerged the strongest candidate from the interview process. She was convinced the commissioner would lead the force on a rigorous path of change.

Yet as Garda controversy followed Garda controversy, Ms Fitzgerald is risking her own political future in protecting the commissioner.

On Friday, Fianna Fáil shifted its focus from Ms O’Sullivan to the Tánaiste, threatening to block her reappointment as minister for justice in the event of a new Fine Gael leader.

Financial irregularities

TemplemoreJohn Barrett

Mr Barrett said a two-hour meeting took place in July 2015 where the issues were discussed. The commissioner said it was over a cup of tea in the college.

He then produced documents this week to support his version of events.

The documents also confirmed Ms O’Sullivan was instructed by the head of legal affairs Ken Ruane in July 2015 to make Ms Fitzgerald aware of the issues.

The commissioner did not do so until October 2016.

It seems unfair, therefore, to be seeking Ms Fitzgerald’s replacement.

Kept in the dark

Ireland

This latest affair is another in a growing list of issues where the account of Ms O’Sullivan has been undermined, rejected or contradicted by others.

The commissioner has repeatedly denied the claims of her former press officer, Supt Dave Taylor, who alleges she orchestrated a smear campaign he conducted against whistleblower Sgt McCabe. They cannot both be correct.

The commissioner has told rank-and-file gardaí they must accept their fair share of the blame for the inflation of alcohol breath test figures. The rank-and-file association, the Garda Representative Association, says it is a management issue. They cannot both be correct.

The commissioner says she was informed about chronic mismanagement of funds at the Garda training college in a brief exchange over a cup of tea.

Her head of human resources says the exchange was actually a lengthy, sustained two-hour meeting – a claim backed up by the paperwork now submitted to the PAC.They cannot both be correct.

The Government insists Ms O’Sullivan remains an appropriate person to lead the force. The Opposition says she is not. They cannot both be correct.

The Government is acutely aware that it cannot force a commissioner from their position without concrete evidence.

It is also aware that following sharply on the heels of the departure of a commissioner could come the fall of the Government.

The resignation of one commissioner may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose two could be politically catastrophic.