There was confusion last night as to when Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan received sanction from the Department of Justice to take a six-week holiday, writes Cormac O'Keeffe.
The department said Ms O’Sullivan had notified it “earlier this year of her attention to take holidays in July/August”, while the Policing Authority said she had informed it at its May 25 meeting that she would miss the scheduled July 27 meeting.
The department declined to say when the commissioner applied for the leave or when it was granted, nor would it give the start and finish dates of the holidays.
The Policing Authority told the Irish Examiner yesterday evening that it only learned from the commissioner “last week” that she would be on leave in August.
It revealed the dates of the holidays — July 17 to September 4 — were only confirmed to it on Tuesday by An Garda Síochána and yesterday by the department.
This means the authority was informed of the holiday dates by An Garda Síochána the day after they started and two days after by the department.
The authority said while it does not have a role in granting sanction for holidays to the commissioner, it said the minister was “required to inform the authority of any such authorisations”.
It said the precise dates were only confirmed by the Garda Síochána on Tuesday and by the Department of Justice yesterday.
News of Ms O’Sullivan’s holidays emerged yesterday after the public accounts committee published its report into finances at Templemore Garda College and how Garda management dealt with the matter.
Ms O’Sullivan came in for serious criticism in the report, leading to renewed calls for her to resign.
In a statement yesterday, the Department of Justice said: “The Garda Commissioner has not sought a ‘two-month leave of absence’ from the minister of the Government.”
It said that under section 32 of the Garda Síochána Act 2005, the minister may authorise a deputy commissioner to perform the functions of the commissioner during any absence by the police boss “such as when she takes annual leave or is abroad on business”.
It said: “The commissioner notified the department earlier this year of her intention to take leave in July/August 2017, in the normal course.”
When asked, the department declined to say when the application was made or give the exact period of the holidays.
The Policing Authority said it did not have a role in granting leave to the commissioner, but said it was a duty of the justice minister.
It said the minister is “required to inform the authority of any such authorisations”.
It said in a statement: “The authority is aware that the commissioner will be absent from July 17 until September 4.”
It said that, “last week”, it became aware from the commissioner that “she would be on leave in August”.
It said formal authorisation from the minister for deputy commissioner Dónall O Cualáin to perform the commissioner’s functions during July 17-31 had been received. “We expect that the department will inform us of the minister’s authorisation in relation to the remaining period of the commissioner’s absence in due course.”
The authority pointed out that Ms O’Sullivan had informed it at its May 25 meeting that she would “not be available to attend this July meeting”.
Garda sources said commissioners traditionally take long holidays in August.
“She is not running off on the back of the PAC report,” said one source. “It was only known two weeks ago when the report would be.”
This story first appeared in the Irish Examiner