Mid-ranking gardaí have issued stinging criticism of Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan, accusing her of breaching due process in ascribing “incompetence or deception” towards gardaí for the breath test scandal.
Association of Garda Sergeants & Inspectors leader Antoinette Cunningham also accused the Commissioner and her predecessors of engaging in “fake news” for telling successive governments that they had adequate resources to run the organisation.
Ms Cunningham told the Commissioner at the AGSI annual conference that members needed “strong leadership” and wanted “inspiration and motivation” from their chief.
She told Ms O’Sullivan sergeants and inspectors were operating with a “smell of negativity in the air”.
She took the Commissioner to task over her recent appearance at an Oireachtas committee in relation to the breath test and wrongful traffic convictions.
“We must, Commissioner, as the voice of sergeants and inspectors, challenge you on some of the remarks you made at a recent meeting of the Oireachtas Justice Committee,” said Ms Cunningham.
“Your comments that the two recent controversies highlight ‘at best incompetence and at worse deception’ were unfair to the majority of decent, honourable, and hard-working sergeants and inspectors, who have served, and will continue to serve.
“You did not show the due process that all members are entitled to, and your comments left a sense of everyone being damaged in an unfair way, when some or many may have had no involvement in this crisis at all.
“Generalisations are dangerous in the absence of evidence and fair procedures should be applied to sergeants and inspectors just as much as for senior Garda management.”
Ms Cunningham said there was “no doubt” the recent events involving the conviction of more than 14,500 people in our communities was “wrong”.
She said: “While it will not take away from the anxiety, expense and deep sense of injustice it will have caused, and for that we must all be sorry, we need to ensure it doesn’t happen again, and AGSI will co-operate with the examinations into these matters.”
She said there had been “scandal after scandal” and that members were being “pilloried”, while some politicians were playing “political ping-pong” in Leinster House.
Ms Cunningham told Ms O’Sullivan that if she believed incompetence was an issue she should have added there had been “complete lack of training” of members over the last 10 years, which had created “a high risk to operational policing practice on the frontline”.
She said many stations in Milford, Castlecomer, Balieborough, Cork, and Dublin were without sergeants to supervise gardaí.
“For years we have listened to various garda commissioners telling government that they had adequate resources to run this organisation. An example of ‘fake news’ at its best,” said Ms Cunningham, adding that the organisation was one where “no one is allowed to make an honest mistake”.
She criticised “management speak” within Garda HQ and questioned if the Commissioner was committed to genuine reform.
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