Garda boss defends herself in PAC row

The Garda Commissioner has insisted she did not mislead the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) and said there was “no difference of opinion” between her and the force’s human resources chief, John Barrett.

Mr Barrett told the PAC he raised financial irregularities at the Garda College with the commissioner and others during a two-hour meeting at Templemore on July 27, 2015, while the commissioner had also told the committee on Thursday that it was a “brief” meeting over a cup of tea.

PAC member and Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald yesterday said the commissioner’s contributions had been “full of discrepancies, evasion, and delay” and called on her to reflect on her remarks.

“Did she mislead the PAC in describing the meeting as a five-minute chat over tea? She must clarify as a matter of urgency,” said Ms McDonald.

The commissioner’s PAC appearance also prompted fresh attacks from Fianna Fáil of her ability to lead the organisation, with the party’s justice spokesman Jim O’Callaghan renewing expressions of no confidence. At a suddenly-arranged press briefing yesterday, the commissioner rejected the various claims.

“Under no circumstances did I mislead the committee,” Ms O’Sullivan said. “The fact is after the meeting of 27 July, irrespective of how long it took, immediate steps were taken to address all the issues.”

Ms O’Sullivan insisted there was no contradiction on the substantive issue between her and Mr Barrett.

“There is no difference of opinion,” she said. “Irrespective of how long the meeting took place, the facts are there is no issue here.”

Ms McDonald said the commissioner’s estimation of the duration of the meeting “completely contradicts” Mr Barrett’s account.

Ms O’Sullivan said the day after she was informed by Mr Barrett, July 27, she acted.

“Matters were properly raised by Mr Barrett, matters were properly addressed by myself and the senior management team and continue to be,” she said.

She said a group was formalised on July 28 which included representatives from the Department of Justice.

The financial irregularities at Templemore were made public last March when an interim report by the head of Garda Internal Audit Niall Kelly emerged.

It uncovered widespread breaches of financial and standards in public office legislation which some deputies in the PAC described as “embezzlement”.

Ms O’Sullivan told the committee no evidence of criminal wrongdoing had been disclosed although Mr Barrett stressed it was “too soon to say”.

Yesterday, she said: “What I said was from the facts that had been established at the moment it was too early to say. That’s what assistant commissioner John O’Driscoll is looking to identify — if there are any matters arising that require further examination or indeed investigation.”

She said Mr O’Driscoll, head of special crime operations, was examining Mr Kelly’s interim report from a “civil, criminal or administrative law perspective”.

She said his recommendations would be “fully followed through” and, “We will absolutely find out what happened; who knew about it, how long it was going on.”

Mr O’Callaghan said the conflicting accounts at the PAC meeting were “disturbing” and renewed concerns over Ms O’Sullivan’s ability to manage the force “competently and effectively”.

Sinn Féin TD David Cullinane said Ms O’Sullivan’s position is “untenable”.

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