Senior gardaí said it was frustrating that only one side of the story in the current whistleblower controversy had so far been aired and welcomed the opportunity for a full hearing before the forthcoming Charleton public inquiry.
Speaking at a public meeting between Garda management and the Policing Authority, assistant commissioner John O’Driscoll likened the current situation to a jury at a criminal trial making up its mind after hearing just one side.
Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan said the Charleton Tribunal would “deal with facts, not sides” and said the current controversy had an impact on all gardaí, both “personally and professionally”.
She told the authority that there was “a lot of frustration” among Garda members at “inaccuracies” in the media — but clarified later that she was not referring to matters concerning the tribunal, but issues in the media generally.
The commissioner was questioned at length by authority members as to how she could continue driving reforms — including creating a secure environment for future whistleblowers — while facing allegations at the tribunal.
Ms O’Sullivan said she was focused on the reforms and that she and her team would be appearing before the tribunal at different stages and that the organisation was used to “compartmentalising” issues.
During the Q&A, assistant commissioner O’Driscoll said: “There is a frustration that there is another view of events that has not been aired yet.”
He said: “I’m assuring my staff that this public inquiry is going to be the platform where all the information can come out in an appropriate manner and [be] judged in an equitable manner by honourable Judge Charleton.”
He said that as time progressed that “any dint in confidence” would be restored.
He added: “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.”
Assistant commissioner Eugene Corcoran said they had been “totally restricted” in responding to the allegations, but that everyone will be able to hear and see that response at the tribunal.
Authority member Maureen Lynott cautioned against what she described as any “group think” and expressed concern at the message being sent out to garda members.
The commissioner said she was not referring to the tribunal in her comments adding: “The tribunal will deal with facts, not sides.”
Ms O’Sullivan said that “very significant issues” had arisen and “very much welcomed” that they would be dealt with in a public forum.
Questioned by authority member Vicky Conway at the impact on morale, Ms O’Sullivan said she was concerned about this and said there had been an impact “on all of us, personally and professionally”.
Authority member Bob Collins questioned how the commissioner could create the right environment for whistleblowers when all around her the organisation would be “swirling” in negativity at the tribunal.
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