Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan has admitted that there is a “crisis of confidence” in the Garda Síochána.
It came as a Fianna Fáil motion was being debated in the Dáil last night demanding increased accountability in Garda HQ and for the Policing Authority to determine the commissioner’s ability to restore confidence in the force along with the publication by the Government of the terms of reference of the ‘root and branch’ review of the organisation.
Today will see a Sinn Féin motion relating to no confidence in the commissioner and the publication by Oireachtas Justice Committee chairman Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin of the commissioner’s responses to 27 questions set by the committee on the breath test and wrongful conviction scandals after a four-hour hearing last month.
Speaking at the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI) annual conference yesterday, the commissioner told mid-ranking gardaí they “must do better” to restore confidence in the organisation, along with all ranks of the force.
“I acknowledge there is a crisis of confidence in An Garda Síochána,” she told delegates. She said it was her determination that the crisis was “not wasted” in failing to transform the organisation.
On the breath-test scandal, the commissioner asked members how the phantom one million tests “happened right around the country, in every region, division and district” and told them the “answers must be credible”.
In a lengthy speech to delegates, touching 50 minutes, she said: “It is either that somebody somewhere didn’t count the figures right or that somebody somewhere put the wrong figures into the machines.”
The commissioner was earlier subjected to stinging criticism, when AGSI president Antoinette Cunningham accused her of breaching due process in ascribing “incompetence or deception” towards gardaí for the breath-test scandal.
The commissioner made those comments while attending the Oireachtas justice committee.
Ms Cunningham said the finger of blame was “frequently pointed downwards”, with the effect that the “blame culture deepens” within the force.
She also accused the commissioner, and her predecessors, of engaging in “fake news” for telling successive governments that they had adequate resources.
Talking to the media, the commissioner said that her comments to the Oireachtas committee were “fairly measured”. She said she would await the outcome of the internal investigation by assistant commissioner Michael O’Sullivan and the external probe by the Policing Authority.
“It’s not about blaming anybody, its about learning from past mistakes,” she said. “If there are people identified as doing wrong, they will be dealt with no matter what it is and there are mechanisms there including GSOC.”
The commissioner held a closed session with delegates after her speech and later spoke briefly beside Ms Cunningham to the media.
“What’s evident is no one actually has the answers, as of yet, to how these breath tests occurred, but what is very, very clear is that there is an absolute determination and commitment to get to the answers,” she said.