Policing commission head ‘troubled’ by Templemore report

Kathleen O’Toole declines to respond on commissioner's position

The Oireachtas Public Accounts Committee found Garda management was given several opportunities to resolve issues at Templemore college but failed to do so. PAC also expressed ‘grave concerns’ regarding the Dept of Justice's oversight of the force.

 

The head of the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland said she was “troubled” by the Oireachtas Public Accounts Committee (PAC) report on financial irregularities in the Garda College in Templemore.

“There is no question there were irregularities that need to be addressed and must be met head on,” Kathleen O’Toole told RTE’s News at One.

Ms O’Toole, who is former head of the Garda Inspectorate and is the chief of police for Seattle, said the commission is focused on the future and declined to respond when asked if she thought the Garda Commissioner Noirín O’Sullivan should resign.

She called for better training for the force to prepare officers to be leaders. “If we can design a programme to prepare them (gardai) for leadership, that’s my priority.

“We’re looking at the bigger picture in the future. We want to create a road map for transformation.

The PAC issued a report into the issues at the college on Tuesday that found several failures on the part of the Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan, senior management of An Garda Síochána and the Department of Justice.

The committee concluded that a culture of withholding information, providing inadequate details and keeping issues internally to avoid external scrutiny exists within the force.

“Our recommendations will transform the organisation and prepare it for 21st century policing,” Ms O’Toole said on Wednesday, adding the commission had “a very ambitious agenda”.

She also said that any Garda Commissioner should be held to account.

There were big challenges facing the police - such as homelessness and addiction - and the police force needed to be prepared to deal with these issues, Ms O’Toole said.

The next generation of Garda management will have to be much better prepared for leadership, she added.

Ms O’Toole has also served as a member of the Independent Commission on Policing for Northern Ireland, the Patten Commission, which was established in 1998 to inquire into policing in Northern Ireland. She expressed the hope hoped the Commission on the Future of Policing could come up with a similar model that would lead to reform.

“I’m very optimistic. I believe we can succeed. There is an appetite for change and a sense of urgency. The Government is committed.”

‘Whole scale change is required’

Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald has asked how many “scandals” need to take place before changes take place in Garda management.

Ms McDonald says the issue of leadership within An Garda Síochána needs to be addressed.

“Whole scale change is required. There is a need for a new dynamic from outside. When viewed objectively, what she (the commissioner) said does not add up. She failed in her obligations.”

Ms McDonald said there was “a state of perpetual chaos and scandal in an Garda Síochána.

“This (PAC report) was another body blow. If we are to contribute to rebuilding public confidence the issue of leadership of an Garda Síochána has to be addressed.

“How many scandals does it take to bring about change?”

The PAC report alleges there is “a greater concern to minimise reputational damage to the organisation” than to deal with issues raised.

The report criticises Ms O’Sullivan for failing to inform the department and the Comptroller and Auditor General of the financial mismanagement at Templemore when she first became aware of it on July 27th, 2015.

“It is the committee’s view that there was an assumption within An Garda Síochána that the Garda college was different to other public sector bodies and was exempt from certain rules.”

Ms O’Sullivan has not commented on the report but her spokesman said she would study the contents in full before making any statement.

Government Ministers have expressed full confidence in Ms O’Sullivan despite allegations from TDs that she sought to “cover-up” financial irregularities at the training college.

Ms McDonald said the Department of Justice, of which the report is highly critical, stating that it has “grave concerns” regarding its level of oversight of the Garda, “does not come out out well in this investigation”.

“It’s a matter now for the Taoiseach. The question is how on earth Charlie Flanagan could state confidence in the commissioner,” Ms McDonald told Newstalk.

Later on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland Ms McDonald said: “This is a moment for action. It is an opportunity for us in the PAC to do our job, to join the dots. It is glaringly apparent there is a need to take remedial action and that starts at the top with Garda management.”

Labour TD Alan Kelly, who along with Ms McDonald was part of the PAC told the Pat Kenny Show that there was “no way” Government Ministers who commented on the PAC report immediately after it was launched could have read it.