Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan’s future is in serious doubt after Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin called for her to “consider her position” and two other opposition parties began planning no confidence motions in her tenure.
Despite continuing to be officially supported by Government, the embattled commissioner looked increasingly isolated last night due to the latest Garda scandal, with Independent Alliance junior minister John Halligan also joining calls for her to resign.
Last week, gardaí confirmed that almost 1m recorded drink-driving tests between 2011 and 2016 did not take place.
In a separate scandal, the Garda’s failure to send fixed charge notices could potentially see 14,700 people wrongly prosecuted for road traffic offences sue the State and have their convictions quashed.
Amid growing fears about the credibility of the force due to the latest scandals in the wake of the Maurice McCabe smear campaign allegations, the penalty points saga, and phone tapping, Ms O’Sullivan attempted to calm concerns with a Saturday statement outlining what is already publicly known.
However, despite the move, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin effectively called time on her tenure by saying she must “consider her position”, while Labour and Sinn Féin both confirmed last night they are planning no confidence motions destined to pass if supported by Fianna Fáil.
“I think the commissioner should consider her position,” Mr Martin told RTÉ Radio One’s This Week programme.
“The bottom line is we can no longer articulate confidence in the garda commissioner, or the minister [for justice, Frances Fitzgerald].”
Mr Martin added that he wants a new statement from Ms O’Sullivan released immediately and an explanation for why the Policing Authority was not informed of the drink-driving tests issue in 2014.
Fianna Fáil’s change in position is significant because the Government cannot win any vote on the issue without the party’s support.
The Irish Examiner understands that both Labour and Sinn Féin are likely to take advantage of that situation by tabling no confidence motions in the commissioner as soon as next week.
While Labour will consider tabling the Dáil motion during its parliamentary party meeting tomorrow, Sinn Féin has already drafted a motion based on section 11 C of the Garda Síochána Act, 2005.
This section states that “the person’s removal from office would, in the Government’s opinion, be in the best interests of the Garda Síochána”.
Although a Garda commissioner cannot officially be forced from office without the express permission of Cabinet, a now likely Dáil vote for her to step aside would make her position untenable.
Speaking at a Dublin media event yesterday, Fine Gael’s Social Protection Minister, Leo Varadkar, said that while the latest revelations are “appalling”, he and the Government continue to back the Garda Commissioner.
He said Ms O’Sullivan remains “part of the solution” and that he is not seeking a new statement from her as this could be given at a later Policing Authority meeting.
However, asked why Government should still support a Garda Commissioner who has become embroiled in multiple scandals and held a high level position during her predecessor Martin Callinan’s reign, he said Cabinet will discuss the issue tomorrow.
Independent Alliance’s minister of state for training and skills John Halligan, whose group will decide on its formal position tomorrow, said it is time for Ms O’Sullivan to step down.
“I think the commissioner should ask herself if she has confidence in herself, and should maybe consider stepping aside,” he said.
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