Fianna Fáil TD Seán Ó Fearghaíl’s comments about his “brave” close friend came as thelearned the Oireachtas committee on procedure and privileges he chairs is taking legal advice on whether three no confidence motions in Ms O’Sullivan should be allowed.
Speaking on his local radio station Kildare FM, Mr Ó Fearghaíl defended Ms O’Sullivan, saying she is a “very brave and courageous” person who is entitled to her good name. He said TDs and senators “need to be very careful” about use of Oireachtas privilege to make comments “without evidence” in relation to the commissioner, whose husband is a former school friend of Mr Ó Fearghaíl.
And, in a move that is likely to spark criticism, he has breached the strict neutrality of the Ceann Comhairle position, adding that in his personal opinion much of the clamour for Ms O’Sullivan’s removal has been “groupthink” that is effectively “mob rule”.
“We need to be careful to be fair, there has been an element in the country at large of groupthink. And groupthink is one step short of mob rule.
“I do know the Garda commissioner, people in Kildare will know that her husband was in school with me and that we’re good friends.
“My personal experience of her is that she’s a very fine member of the force, that she’s very brave and courageous. I think we need to be very careful that while we have privilege we won’t have the right to take anybody’s good name without evidence.
“And I have to say that I would be very surprised and very disappointed if anything were to emerge to suggest or to prove that Nóirín O’Sullivan had done anything untoward in her role as garda commissioner.
“She is a very fine member of the force, she is very brave and courageous, I don’t know what is going to be found, but I think she, together with every other individual, is entitled to her good name. They’re not entitled to have that besmirched without concrete evidence.”
His comments come as Ms O’Sullivan continues to ignore opposition party calls for her to resign amid a flurry of garda scandals.
Meanwhile, thehas learnt that the cross-party Oireachtas committee on privilege and procedures, which is chaired by Mr Ó Fearghaíl, is seeking senior counsel legal advice on whether planned opposition no confidence motions in Ms O’Sullivan can be allowed.
Last Monday, after both Sinn Féin, Labour and Solidarity-People Before Profit confirmed they will all put down no confidence motions in Ms O’Sullivan and the force this month, committee officials sought internal Oireachtas legal advice on the moves.
This is because only the Government or Policing Authority can remove a garda commissioner, and that a Dáil motion may not be possible because other TDs have no role to play in the matter.
The initial legal view was that the motions are allowed as they are “substantive”.
However, while accepting this view, committee officials are now seeking external senior counsel advice on the matter which could potentially block the motions from being heard.