Garda crisis: Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan confident over strike talks

Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan said she was “confident” talks between Garda staff associations and the Department of Justice will bring about a “suitable resolution”.
Garda crisis: Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan confident over strike talks

It comes as discussions resume in the coming days in a bid to avert strike action by frontline gardaí.

The Garda Representative Association (GRA), with 10,500 members, has directed the withdrawal of labour for 24 hours on November 4, 11, 18, and 25, in a dispute over pay. The Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors, representing 2,000 frontline supervisors, will meet next Monday to decide whether or not to take industrial action — including the possibility of doing so on the same dates as the GRA.

Speaking at the Oireachtas justice committee, the commissioner said there were mechanisms in place for staff associations to address their concerns.

“I would not, as commissioner of An Garda Síochána, with all of the policing and security challenges that we have, like to see anything happen that would do anything to disrupt the policing service and in any way compromise our protection of the communities,” she said.

“So we are very focused at the moment on ensuring that people are encouraged on staying engaged in the processes that are there. We will await the outcome of them and see what they bring, but I am confident that they will bring a suitable resolution.”

Flanked by 12 members of her senior Garda management team, she also responded to questioning in relation to concerns raised by the head of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) in terms of accessing documentation for their investigations.

Last month, GSOC chair Mary Ellen Ring said she needed legal powers to go to the courts to compel the Garda Commissioner to hand over information.

Responding to this, the commissioner noted GSOC found there was a 93.6% compliance rate in gardaí supplying information within the established timeframe.

But she said Deputy Commissioner Donal O Cualáin was meeting Ms Ring next week to “make sure there are no blockages”.

Committee chairman Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin said the committee was seeing an “uncooperative pattern” regarding the gardaí in the committee’s meetings with GSOC and the Policing Authority. He said this would seem to “necessitate legislative change compelling full and timely co-operation”.

Ms O’Sullivan said that “anything required by GSOC is given in a timely fashion”.

Questioned on gangland crime, Ms O’Sullivan said since March 2015, when the Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau was established, €1.9m in cash and €36m worth of drugs had been seized. She said 35 guns and 1,000 rounds of ammunition had been recovered and that 167 people had been arrested for drugs, firearms, and money laundering offences.

As previously reported in the Irish Examiner, she said “12 assassination attempts” had been foiled.

She said co-operation with international police forces would be “built upon” and cited the presence here, for the first time, of Spanish police in a joint operation targeting the Kinahan cartel.

She said there would be “more of that in the future”.

Assistant Commissioner for Dublin Jack Nolan said 45 people had been arrested and eight people charged in relation to the Kinahan-Hutch feud. He expected further charges to be brought as other investigation files were being completed.

He said that under Operation Hybrid — aimed at preventing shootings in the feud — there were approximately 90 checkpoints a day.

Mr Nolan said Hybrid patrols arrived at the scene of shootings in 90 seconds to two minutes. He said they had recovered items and cars and that these “will feature in what I suspect will be successful prosecutions”.

He said the Special Crime Task Force, set up in response to the feud, was targeting mid-level members of the gangs, involved in drug distribution and laundering the proceeds of crime.

What O’Sullivan said on key issues

On the mistreatment of whistleblowers:

  • Commissioner: “I am certainly not privy to, nor did I approve or nor would I condone any such action against any individual.”
  • Clare Daly TD: “My evidence is that you are.”
  • Commissioner: “What I did say is that I am not privy to, nor did I approve, nor would I condone any campaign of harassment or any campaign to malign any individual employee.”
  • Daly: “So you are not aware of any circumstances, where such claims would have been made, that hasn’t been brought to your attention?”
  • Commissioner: “That isn’t what I’m saying deputy. What I am saying is that I personally was not privy to, nor would I approve, nor would I condone any campaign against any individual.”

On complaints:

  • “Perhaps it is time for a consideration to be given to some kind of independent entity where all of these issues go to so that people can have some reassurance that there is somebody independently looking at all of these matters.”

On promotions:

Mick Wallace TD asked her about promoting her husband and bridesmaid:

  • Commissioner: “Again, there are a lot of factual inaccuracies in the public domain, so lest one of them remain that I promoted one of my bridesmaids. That certainly isn’t the case. Because I didn’t have a bridesmaid. I think it is quite inappropriate that a member of An Garda Síochána is defined by the person they just happen to be associated it, let it be through marriage or otherwise.”

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