Garda commissioner Nóirin O’Sullivan will this morning face the first of two crunch Dáil grillings over a series of scandals that have hit the force amid ongoing calls for her to resign.
She will be questioned by the Oireachtas justice committee from 9am, with her future potentially on the line.
While the Government is continuing to back Ms O’Sullivan, Fianna Fáil is due to hold an internal private meeting after the committee hearing to decide on whether it should push further for her to step down.
Although it is unlikely the party will switch positions and join Sinn Féin, Labour, and Solidarity-People Before Profit in drawing up a no-confidence motion in the commissioner, a failure by Ms O’Sullivan to navigate the committee questions will increase pressure on the Government to act.
In an opening statement to the committee this morning, Ms O’Sullivan will admit to a “real fear” that the falsification of Garda figures may also involve other areas of the force, with sources saying this relates to domestic violence statistics.
She will say the “falsification” of almost one million drink driving test figures between 2011 and 2016 may not be “confined to traffic data” and that “grave mistakes” may have occurred in other areas.
Ms O’Sullivan, who is expected to also be called to the Dáil’s public accounts committee next week to discuss the separate Garda Training College audit scandal, is expected to tell the justice committee that the controversies affecting the gardaí are a “collective failure” and not about one individual.
At a private meeting following today’s justice committee hearing, Fianna Fáil’s front bench will discuss whether it should hold its position that it no longer has confidence in Ms O’Sullivan to lead the force or push further by specifically calling for her to resign.
The party’s justice spokesman, Jim O’Callaghan, has said in recent days that supporting a no-confidence motion could be illegal as a commissioner can only be removed by the Cabinet. However, senior Fianna Fáil TDs have suggested the party may be open to a broader motion criticising recent controversies in the Garda force itself.
Fianna Fáil is also likely to intensify criticism of Tánaiste and Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald over her handling and knowledge of the affair.
She continues to receive the backing of her own party, with the issue not raised during last night’s Fine Gael parliamentary party meeting. Taoiseach Enda Kenny insisted yesterday she and Ms O’Sullivan still have his full support.
Speaking at an EPP conference in Malta, Mr Kenny said the focus must now be on finding the “solutions” to the Garda controversy.
“I have stated that very clearly in the Dáil. We have got to determine the facts as to how all that happened,” he said.
“That’s why I said we need a root and branch [review] through analysis independently looking into the entire structure of the gardaí. That’s what we intend to focus on in an overall sense in the period ahead.”
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