The Garda police Commissioner in the 26 Counties, Noirin O’Sullivan, has announced that she is retiring after a litany of scandals and disgraces finally overwhelmed fierce resistance in government circles to her relinquishing the post.
O’Sullivan notified Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan this afternoon, thanking them for their “continued confidence” in her. She also thanked former Taoiseach Enda Kenny and former Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald.
In her statement, she said: “It has become clear, over the last year, that the core of my job is now about responding to an unending cycle of requests, questions, instructions and public hearings involving various agencies including the Public Accounts Committee, the Justice and Equality Committee, the Policing Authority, and various other inquiries, and dealing with inaccurate commentary surrounding all of these matters.”
O’Sullivan claimed to have been working to bring about Garda reform, but had always been synonymous in the public mind with a defiant old order since she took over the post three years ago.
She was closely associated with her predecessor, Martin Callinan, as well as the previous Minister of Justice, Alan Shatter, both of whom also stepped down in disgrace three years ago.
The current Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan said he is appointing Deputy Commissioner Donall O Cualain as Acting Commissioner with full powers coming into effect from midnight tonight.
However, Sinn Fein’s Mary Lou McDonald said her party wanted someone appointed for a different jurisdiction who is “not already tainted” by the dysfunction and corruption within the force.
“Above all Garda reform requires a government that is prepared to act to implement the required changes needed restore public confidence,” she said.
Recent scandals this year included large-scale embezzlement and an active white-collar crime ring operating out of the state’s main police training college.
This week, O’Sullivan faced another major embarrassment when the full-scale of a drink-driving breath test scandal was revealed. An investigation found a discrepancy of 1.4 million tests which Gardai falsely claimed to have carried out.
An accounting of other Garda practices currently underway is expected to reveal other bogus or exaggerated claims of activity, including large numbers of traditional and serious crime investigations.
Ms McDonald has welcomed the “belated” news of O’Sullivan’s departure. She said the Dublin government’s failure to sack her had done untold damage.
“It has been clear for some time now that Commissioner O’Sullivan’s position was untenable but unfortunately the government refused to act to remove her,” she said.
“Despite scandal after scandal the government sat on its hands and refused to act, doing untold damage to the public’s confidence in An Garda Siochana.
“The new Taoiseach Leo Varadkar steadfastly stood by the old guard and allowed further damage to be inflicted on Garda morale and the public standing of An Garda Siochana.”