Garda chief ‘should not step aside’, says chair of Policing Authority

Josephine Feehily

The chair of the Policing Authority yesterday said it had “a degree of confidence” in the ability of the Garda Commissioner to do her job while dealing with allegations at the forthcoming Charleton inquiry.

However, Josephine Feehily repeated the authority’s position that Nóirín O’Sullivan should not be pressed to step aside pending the tribunal because of the right to “fair procedure” and in order to put her side of the story to it.

The comments from Ms Feehily come the day after a testing public meeting between the authority and the commissioner and her team.

Speaking on Today with Sean O’Rourke on RTÉ radio, Ms Feehily did not quite express full confidence in the ability of the commissioner to do her work at the same time as addressing the inquiry.

“I would say we have a degree of confidence, but we are concerned,” said Ms Feehily.

“I’m not saying that’s a deep concern at this point, the tribunal hasn’t begun. We have flagged that concern to the commissioner, we asked the question in public yesterday.

“So I think it remains to be seen whether, as I put in my remarks, the accelerator can be kept to the floor in policing and in modernising the organisation while servicing the tribunal, so it’s a question. 

“But we do have confidence in the commissioner and her senior team’s capacity to run the guards.”

When it was put to her that it was less than a wholehearted endorsement, Ms Feehily added: “It’s a wholehearted endorsement in terms of the capacity of herself and her team to run the guards.

“It’s the parallel running of a very complex organisation that does need to keep the foot on change and modernisation while servicing a tribunal. Until that starts to play out I’m simply saying we don’t know.”

Ms Feehily said the authority believed the commissioner should be allowed to stay pending the inquiry.

“It’s a matter of fair procedure,” she said. “It’s a matter of everybody, whether in this organisation or any other organisation being entitled to their good name, entitled to fair procedure and being entitled to have their side heard.”

Ms Feehily said it was very important that the tribunal was being held in public.

“It’s hugely important that it moves along at a pace to bring finality hopefully to a saga that has been running for a very long time, which is potentially corrosive, potentially damaging for public confidence in policing and damaging for the morale of the men and women who work in the Garda Síochána,” she said.

“It’s also important for all parties to say their piece and I’ll say no more than that about the matters before the tribunal.”

At the public meeting on Thursday, assistant commissioner John O’Driscoll said: “There is a frustration that there is another view of events that has not been aired yet. 

“I’m assuring my staff that this public inquiry is going to be the platform where all the information can come out and judged in an equitable manner by honourable judge Charleton.

“People understand the concept of there being two sides to any story: it’s a bit like listening to the defence side of a criminal trial and walking out and having a vote on whether they believe the person is guilty or not without listening to the other side.

“You will always get a certain view of events in those circumstances.”

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