Former Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan and Acting Garda Commissioner Donal O’Cualain leaving a meeting of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice and Equality in March; Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan; tweet by Fine Gael TD and Minister for Employment and Social Protection Regina Doherty yesterday
In light of Noirin O’Sullivan’s resignation yesterday evening from her role as Garda Commissioner…
Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan was interviewed by Paul Cunningham on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.
He said he wasn’t surprised by her resignation and that the possibility of it was made known to him in recent weeks.
He also said “there’s lots happening” in terms of reforming An Garda Siochana.
From the interview:
Charlie Flanagan: “I wasn’t surprised at the news. The possibility the commissioner O’Sullivan might retire was flagged to me over the last couple of weeks. Of course it was treated as confidential until such time as the commissioner made her decision which was indicated to me approximately at 5pm to me yesterday evening.”
Paul Cunningham: “Because it was of interest, in the Irish Independent, John Downing was just noting that in the past week you were asked in one interview, on four occasions, but you avoided saying whether she would be in the job this time next year. You mentioned you had some inkling over the past weeks, where did those inklings come from?”
Flanagan: “I understand that there were some discussions, having regard for the fact that the commissioner said that she would devote much of her summer break to giving consideration to whether or not she’d continue as Garda Commissioner and whether such continuing would be the right thing for her to do. In the course of that, there were discussions with officials from my department.”
Cunningham: “Did you contact her and ask her to stay because only in the past couple of days, your cabinet colleague, Minister [Regina] Doherty said that the Garda Commissioner had the vision and the grit that was needed.”
Flanagan: “No I didn’t, I haven’t been speaking to the Garda Commissioner since before she took her summer break at the end of July.”
Cunningham: “The TD from the Social Democrats, Roisin Shortall, said that the commissioner had lost all credibility and authority and it was very difficult to comprehend why the Government continued to defend her. Why didn’t you move earlier? Why did you not recognise that her position was untenable?”
Flanagan: “She was the Garda Commissioner, she was engaged in the process of reform. She took a break over the summer months, she was back at her desk last week. I had intended meeting her this week. Obviously there are urgent issues to be discussed – the programme of reform, the five-year action plan, the Garda Inspectorate Report, Changing Policing In Ireland, but obviously the Garda Commissioner took a decision that she felt was the right thing to do, to retire, and of course I accepted that.
“And this morning I will be making contact with the Policing Authority so as we can set in train the process of finding her replacement. In the meantime, I’m very pleased that Deputy Commissioner Donal O’Cualain will now act as police commissioner with all the powers and role and function that Noirin O’Sullivan had.”
Cunningham: “Before we come to that come to that question of process because it’s vitally important, can I just ask you whether you accept what Jim O’Callaghan, of Fianna Fail, said last night, that the resignation was effectively some accountability within An Garda Siochana for the 1.5million fake breath tests.”
Flanagan: “Well. I want to acknowledge here that this has been a very, very difficult time for the Garda Siochana, there are a number of inquiries, there’s a tribunal and, you know, I’m under no illusion here. The scale of reform here, and the need to move with a certain urgency is essential. But, from what I see, from both Garda management and from frontline gardai on a daily basis is that they have the appetite to see change and it’s up to us as political leaders to ensure we can drive change.
“And that’s why, just before I took office, my predecessor [Frances Fitzgerald] introduced the Future of Policing [commission] which is now considering all aspects of the garda service and all functions of the garda service and indeed the many oversight bodies whom I’ve been meeting in the course of the summer, the Policing Authority, the Garda Inspectorate, the Garda Siochana Ombudsman Commission and, you know, I will ensure that we will coordinate a programme of reform which is both urgent and important in Garda Siochana. And I believe it’s important too, that the reform programme now gains a certain momentum and that, of course, in no circumstances, would its credibility be adversely affected or undermined.”
Cunningham: “The Taoiseach said that the Government was now going to see how best to accelerate the crucial and essential reform programme. Why aren’t you doing that already? Why are we only going to accelerate it now?”
Flanagan: “Oh, well, we are doing it already. We have the report from December 2015, Changing Policing In Ireland; 18 main recommendations in relation to the structure of An Garda Siochana; the manner in which practices are deployed; culture of the Garda Siochana; human resources; financial management; all Garda practices and, of course, I’m looking forward to this year’s budget for next year when we can continue to ensure the acceleration of recruitment, both new garda siochana going in for training in Templemore graduating, at the earliest opportunity and also the further civilianisation of the garda organisation and the roll-out of modern policing. So there’s lots happening.”
Listen back in full here
Previously: She’s Gone
How Did He Get Here?
Absence Of Malice
Related: Minister: Garda Commissioner is ‘incredible role model for women’ (The Irish Times)