Garda chief claims she is not aware of smears against whistleblowers

Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan said she has no knowledge of a so-called smear campaign against a whistleblower in her force.

Garda chief claims she is not aware of smears against whistleblowers

Last October, former High Court judge Iarfhlaith O’Neill was appointed by the Government to examine the latest allegations made by Garda whistleblowers.

The smear campaign allegations were made by the former head of the Garda press office, Superintendent Dave Taylor, who is currently suspended from the force.

He claimed that senior gardaí targeted the whistleblower, engaging in character assassination on a widespread scale by passing on false and damaging allegations, including to journalists and politicians.

“Obviously, there is a process underway and you’ll appreciate that I’m constrained in what I can say, but what I can say is that I’m not aware, nor was I aware, of any campaign to discredit any individual,” said Ms O’Sullivan.

Of the inquiry, she said: “It will reach its findings. I’m satisfied that the process will establish the truth. Certainly, I had no knowledge of any campaign to undermine any individual, nor would I take part in any campaign to undermine any individual.”

The Commissioner was speaking to RTÉ’s Sean O’Rourke on the same day as new ethics rules for officers were published.

Commenting on whistleblowers in general, Ms O’Sullivan said it takes courage for someone to speak up.

“I recognise it takes great courage to speak up,” she said. “It takes great courage — particularly as a member of a disciplined organisation — to speak up, but it’s a responsibility and a right that we all have to speak up and to challenge some of the things we see or even some of the assumptions about the way things are done around here.

“Constructive dissent is much better than destructive consent,”

Ms O’Sullivan said a new culture encouraging people to speak their minds was being fostered.

She also said “honest” mistakes can be made in the line of duty.

“A blame culture isn’t necessarily a healthy culture, but it’s an easy culture,” she said.

“Certainly, my experience is we are creating a culture encouraging people to speak up, people to speak their minds and that’s a balance that has to be had in what is a disciplined organisation.

“Moving from a blame to a learning culture, where someone makes an honest mistake, and that they are not afraid; our members go out every single day and they have to make critical life-changing decisions in really quick time and they do that in absolute integrity and with absolute impartiality and sometimes they do make a mistake.”

She was also asked how bothered she was by the thoughts and comments of politicians about how she carries out her role.

She said she had “a very important job to do”.

Ms O’Sullivan also addressed other issues within the force, such as resources, technology, and the closure of stations.

She said a review was underway into the garda stations that were closed as a result of the recession.

In relation to technology and computers, the commissioner said investment had been secured.

“Some stations are without computer access. Our aim this year is to have those stations networked,” she said.

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