From top: Former Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan and former Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald; Dan Boyle
When Nóirín O’Sullivan was appointed Garda Commissioner, it brought to five the number of women who held the highest positions in justice and law enforcement in Ireland.
With Susan Denham as Chief Justice, Frances Fitzgerald as Minister for Justice, Máire Whelan as Attorney General, Claire Loftus as Director of Public Prosecutions, as well as O’Sullivan in the Garda Siochana, a significant milestone had been reached.
With the exception of Fitzgerald, each was the first female holder of their respective offices. Soon only Loftus will be in situ in her appointment.
The quintet would never have acted in concert together, although O’Sullivan, Fitzgerald and Whelan became intertwined in the various episodes of the soap opera that is the Garda Siochána.
Each of these women hold unique stories regarding their ascent. The breakthrough of some involved greater effort than others. Some certainly had Lady Fortune on their side – their being at the right place at the right time.
What had seemed a defining moment for female empowerment in the Irish public service, has turned out to be all too fleeting.
I suppose true equality can only come into being when women show themselves to be as least as incompetent, as the men who precede them in these positions.
O’Sullivan’s retirement/effective dismissal puts her apart from others in the quintet. Denham is retiring after years of distinguished service. Fitzgerald and Whelan have been moved to other positions, most probably for reasons of political expediency.
O’Sullivan could be considered a bit hard done to be so isolated in the manner of her departure.
Her real misfortune was to be appointed in the first place. Regardless of gender, it should have been realised that reform of the culture of the Gardaí, would have been impossible from anyone who had long been immersed in that culture.
Have lessons been learned? Are they ever? This retirement/effective dismissal has a feel of respite about it. Becoming a civilian will not stop O’Sullivan from having to come before the Charleton Tribunal.
We can only hope that with her now being free from responsibility, we might finally get some as to just how bad things are in the Garda Siochána.