Senior gardaí bid to steady the ship after Nóirín O’Sullivan resignation

The senior leadership of An Garda Síochána meets this morning for what has been described as a crucial bid to “steady the ship”.

The 17-strong senior leadership team is expected to discuss at length how it is going to govern an organisation in unprecedented crisis and how it is going to respond to forthcoming damaging reports and controversies.

Yesterday, the smaller Garda Executive met to set out how it would run today’s meeting. This body comprises the commissioner, the two deputy commissioners and the chief administrative officer (CAO).

With the shock retirement of Nóirín O’Sullivan, it has only three members now: Acting commissioner and deputy commissioner, governance and strategy, Dónall O Cualáin; deputy commissioner policing and security John Twomey, and CAO Joe Nugent.

These three individuals are now running the show.

Mr O’Cualáin is little known in the public eye and even in the heated hearings of the Public Accounts Committee, and to a lesser extent in the public meetings of the Policing Authority, he has gone largely under the radar. That is his style, say sources. He is cautious, too cautious say some, in making difficult decisions and will not want any scandals to blemish his 34-year career. He is thought to be respected by the Policing Authority, for which he is their direct point of contact.

That is his style, say sources. He is cautious, too cautious say some, in making difficult decisions and will not want any scandals to blemish his 34-year career. He is thought to be respected by the Policing Authority, for which he is their direct point of contact.

Mr Twomey has climbed the ladder relatively quickly in the last 10 years and is in charge of the policing service and oversees the security service as well.

The success of garda operations against organised crime and gangland in the last two years has helped his standing. Both commissioners are said to work well together and could, in practice, split the job, with O’Cualáin dealing with the Government, the authority, the Oireachtas, and the modernisation programme, with Twomey concentrating on policing.

Mr Nugent, who only joined in August 2016, is seen as taking his lead from the two commissioners and, again, has much to occupy himself with the slow progress of civilianisation. He also has to try and manage the obvious internal split between human resources manager John Barrett and finance director Michael Culhane. Both of the latter are members of the 17-strong senior leadership team, which meets once or twice a month, but has a scheduled meeting today.

“Though things were bad, we had some control with Noírín O’Sullivan, now all control is gone,” said one senior source. “It’s up to O’Cualáin and Twomey to try and steady the ship.”

A further report on the breath test and FCN scandals, commissioned by the Policing Authority is looming and more audits, including from the comptroller and auditor general are due in the coming months. Some GSOC and Inspectorate reports are also expected.

The public meeting with the authority is to be held on September 28 and after that the Disclosure Tribunal will hear the explosive allegations of a smear campaign against Sergeant Maurice McCabe allegedly with the knowledge or awareness of former commissioner Martin Callinan and Ms O’Sullivan.

“The next few months are going to be absolutely horrendous for the organisation,” said the source.

It comes as assistant commissioner Michael O’Sullivan’s breath test report has been sent to divisions for possible disciplinary action by chief superintendents.

Frontline gardaí and supervisors are set to fight any such attempts given the other factors involved and the likelihood that most gardai will not be identifiable — leaving those who can be identified possibly carrying the blame.

The senior leadership team also comprises eight assistant commissioners, including three (Pat Leahy, Barry O’Brien, and Michael O’Sullivan) who have been appointed this year through an open competition run by the Policing Authority.

That independent process may assist any of those three officers if they intend to apply for the top job, which could go to an international candidate otherwise.


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