Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan has brushed off remarks by the chair of the Policing Authority that there were concerns over her ability to focus on her job while dealing with the whistleblower tribunal, writes Caroline O'Doherty.
The commissioner said she had both private and public talks with the Policing Authority.
“At no stage did the authority express anything other than confidence in our capacity to do the job.”
Authority chair Josephine Feehily said last week, however, that while she had confidence in the commissioner and her senior team to run the gardaí, the authority was concerned about the additional demands of simultaneously engaging with the Charleton Tribunal.
“I would say we have a degree of confidence, but we are concerned,” Ms Feehily told RTÉ. “It remains to be seen whether... the accelerator can be kept to the floor in policing and in modernising the organisation while servicing the tribunal.”
Ms O’Sullivan said that, for the past three years, she had been working with a below-strength senior team but key appointments were being made that would boost their capacity and enable them to meet the demands of the tribunal.
“I’m no stranger to having to operate with a limited capacity,” she said. “It took us nine months to have deputy commissioners appointed and, thankfully last year, we got some of our senior team in place.
“This year with the help of the Policing Authority we’re engaged in a process of interviews, not just for additional assistant commissioners but also for our executive directors — civilian people who will come in with different skills — so that helps us to have the capacity.
“Separately, we will deal with the tribunal. We have a team who will coordinate the needs of the tribunal.”
Ms O’Sullivan was speaking at the launch of a 24-hour phoneline for victims and concerned citizens to report child sex abuse, both current and historical.
The freephone number, 1850 555 222, will link to the Garda Communications Centre in Dublin but it will flag the call as a CSAR (Child Sexual Abuse Report) so it will be answered by personnel specially trained to deal with sex abuse victims.
The caller’s number will not appear and no detailed information about the abuse will be requested or recorded. Instead, arrangements will be made with the caller to be contacted directly by an investigating officer.
If a child calls, the call will be treated as an emergency and local gardaí will be dispatched immediately.
Ms O’Sullivan said the initiative would give people an alternative to walking into their local garda station or phoning a station when they did not know if a specially trained call-taker was available to speak to them.
“Being a victim of such a horrific crime creates physical and emotional scars that are not easily overcome,” she said. “It can make trusting others, particularly authority figures, very difficult.
“We in An Garda Siochana Síochána recognise that we must ensure that reporting these crimes is as stress-free and as easy as possible.”
The move has been welcomed by the ISPCC, One in Four and the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre.
One in Four director Maeve Lewis, said: “It takes great courage to walk into a garda station and ask to speak to somebody and this is one of the reasons that sexual crimes are so under-reported. The 24-hour line will make it easier to take that first step.”
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