Relations between those close to former Garda commissioner Martin Callinan and the acting police boss Nóirín O’Sullivan deteriorated in the run-up to Mr Callinan’s retirement function last night.
Some Garda sources accused Ms O’Sullivan of turning down an application to allow the Garda Band play at Mr Callinan’s farewell do — and that it was part of her efforts to “distance” herself from her predecessor.
But people close to the acting commissioner rejected the claims, saying official protocol dictated that the Garda Band could not perform at private functions, like retirements, regardless of who is involved.
They pointed out that Ms O’Sullivan merely backed the opinion of a senior officer who made the decision — and added that she was attending and speaking at the event.
The row has again highlighted tensions within the force, between those associated with the former commissioner and those closer to the acting boss. While it was not exactly clear what is the practice of the Garda Band regarding attending events, sources close to Mr Callinan said members had played at retirement events before.
Mr Callinan resigned as commissioner on March 25 last after being visited at his home late the previous night by the head of the Department of Justice. Brian Purcell had been directed to see the police chief by Taoiseach Enda Kenny to express his serious concerns regarding his handling of the secret Garda tape controversy. The following morning, in a move seen by many as a forced removal, Mr Callinan resigned.
The then second in command, Nóirín O’Sullivan, was appointed interim commissioner.
It is thought the retirement organising committee went through the normal channels asking for permission regarding the band.
An official statement from the Garda Press Office said: “It is not within the official remit of the Garda Band to play at such private functions. An Garda Síochána does not comment on private retirement functions of former colleagues.”
Ms O’Sullivan was one of around 360 people who attended the retirement.
But sources close to the former commissioner yesterday said this was being seen as a “snub” to Mr Callinan. The source added: “Like him or loathe him the manner of his departure as commissioner should cause great concern in any democracy.”
A commission of inquiry investigating the Garda tapes controversy is also examining the events leading up to Mr Callinan’s removal.
This will include interviews with the ex-Garda chief, the Taoiseach, his secretary general Martin Fraser, Mr Purcell and former justice minister Alan Shatter.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved