The Irish Examiner has this weekend spoken to six members of Cabinet and confirmed that a “save Nóirín” campaign is being mounted in the face of increased pressure from opposition parties.
Housing Minister Simon Coveney has said his party will seek the help of Fianna Fáil to bolster the position of the embattled Commissioner, while demanding reform continues.
“Clearly, there will be a conversation between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil to ensure efforts by Sinn Féin to force a resignation don’t happen. Everyone needs a reassurance of reform. We will get a further update on Tuesday,” he told the Irish Examiner.
Fianna Fáil sources were last night cautious about coming to the aid of Ms O’Sullivan, saying such talk from Government is simply, “Fine Gael trying to drag us back into the fold”.
Formally, the party is not in a position to express confidence in her and its justice spokesman Jim O’Callaghan has written to the chair of the Policing Authority, Josephine Feehily, over the weekend requesting they further investigate the breath test and fixed charge penalty scandals.
But Fine Gael is hoping that it can convince Micheál Martin’s party to buttress the commissioner from the daily calls from Sinn Féin for her to resign.
The news comes as the Cabinet readies itself to discuss its planned independent review of An Garda Síochána at its weekly meeting on Tuesday.
While not expected to sign off on the matter conclusively, Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald is expected to bring a memo seeking permission to begin dialogue with opposition parties.
But detailed talks between Independent Alliance chief of staff Tony Williams and Department of Justice official John O’Callaghan are said to be well advanced.
It is understood:
- The independent review, which is likely to follow the example of the Chris Patten Commission in Northern Ireland — which ushered in the PSNI — will be given up to a year to complete its work.
- It is expected that the commission, like Patten, will have multiple members on it rather than one person and would produce an interim report within three to six months of establishment.
The Alliance are claiming the setting up of the review as a major victory and a vindication for calling for such oversight in the wake of the Sgt Maurice McCabe scandal in February.
Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe said the Government is open to extending the powers of the Policing Authority should the review deem it necessary.
In his letter to the Police Authority, Jim O’Callaghan called on Ms Feehily to further examine two key issues which the Garda Commissioner failed to answer properly when before the Oireachtas Justice Committee on Thursday.
“Why did the Gardaí wait until 23 March 2017 to disclose that there were significant discrepancies between the number of breath tests publicised and the number that actually occurred and Why has there been a delay of eight months in notifying persons who have been wrongly convicted before the District Court,” he asks of the chairman.
Meanwhile, former Northern Ireland police ombudsman Nuala O’Loan has said that a commission of inquiry, staffed by international experts and with powers to access garda documents would be required to restore trust in policing.
“I think a national commission of inquiry is required now, and possibly an international commission of inquiry, that would send a very clear message about the intentions of Government,” she said on RTÉ’s This Week programme.
“I think if such commission were appointed, it would need to have people from outside the island of Ireland serving on it,” she added.