Questioning of Nóirín O’Sullivan was intense and sometimes unfair
Opinion: Mammoth questioning of the garda commissioner was robust but hostile
Noirín O’Sullivan: the Garda commissioner was scolded by the independent Comptroller and Auditor General for declining to inform his office of the mismanagement at an appropriate time
Garda commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan faced seven hours of intense questioning by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on Tuesday.
She was asked when she became aware of financial irregularities at the Garda training college in Templemore and what she did on receipt of the information.
O’Sullivan was scolded by the independent Comptroller and Auditor General for declining to inform his office of the mismanagement at an appropriate time.
The session was mammoth and the line of questioning was robust. But at times it seemed unfair to the witness.
O’Sullivan faced committee members that have already decided she is unfit for office. Can she expect a fair hearing when at least 10 of the 13 members have stated publicly they believe she should be removed as commissioner?
O’Sullivan was wrong not to inform the Minister for Justice or the Comptroller and Auditor General when she was informed of the irregularities at Templemore. There were serious questions to be asked of her and those around her.
But if the committee does not offer her an adequate oppportunity to respond, its hearings cannot constitute a fair trial. It is rare to see so much hostility shown to a witness as was displayed to O’Sullivan on Tuesday.
She was cut off mid-sentence on multiple occasions by deputies. She was questioned on documentation she had not seen or been presented with prior to the meeting. At one point Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald raised her hand to the commissioner urging her to stop talking.
O’Sullivan failed to answer specific questions. She, at times, seemed to talk down the clock.
The committee would have been right to interject and seek adequate responses. However it did not matter. The members have already made up their mind. O’Sullivan is the bad guy.
Her only option is figuring out a plan to weather the storm that will naturally follow when a constitutional committee decides she has outlived her purpose.