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Garda chief moots independent body amid whistleblower allegations

Published 12/10/2016

Garda Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan arrives at Leinster House in Dublin to appear before the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice and Equality
Garda Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan arrives at Leinster House in Dublin to appear before the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice and Equality

Garda chief Noirin O'Sullivan has suggested an independent body should be set up to deal with whistleblowers within her rank and file.

Under cross-examination about the latest controversy to hit the force, Ms O'Sullivan also said she was "not aware" of any officers alleging Garda wrongdoing being put under surveillance or having their phones tapped.

A former High Court judge has been asked by the Government to investigate an alleged smear campaign against a Garda whistleblower.

Pressed about the claims before a parliamentary committee, Ms O'Sullivan repeatedly insisted she could not talk about any individual case.

But she said she had no part in any alleged conspiracy.

"I'm personally not privy to, did not approve or condone any campaign against any individual," she told the Joint Committee on Justice and Equality.

Ms O'Sullivan said she was trying to recruit an independent expert to review the force's whistleblower processes, but suggested it may be better to take the system outside.

"We never said everything is perfect - far from it," she said.

"It is a relatively new process for everybody. Everybody is learning. That is why we are engaged in a review of policy, practice and procedures."

She added: "In our experience, it may be appropriate to have some independent entity that can independently and impartially receive all these complaints."

Ms O'Sullivan said the number of officers who have made complaints under the existing internal system was in single figures.

She refused to comment on whether they were on extended sick leave over workplace stress.

"I am not in the business as Garda Commissioner or Noirin O'Sullivan of messing with anyone's lives or families," she said.

"My business is leading an organisation of men and women there to support the community."

Ms O'Sullivan also denied claims of nepotism under her leadership, including suggestions about the roles of her husband and her bridesmaid.

"It isn't the case I promoted my bridesmaid. I didn't have a bridesmaid," she told the committee.

Asked about separate claims about the promotion of officers against whom whistleblowers have made complaints, she said allegations remain allegations until they are proven.

In any case, she does not personally make appointments and the promotions process is fair, independent and impartial, she added.

The Garda commissioner admitted it is taking "gritty determination" to push the force through a huge cultural change, which was ongoing and does not happen overnight.

She said she would fully co-operate with the judge-led review into the alleged smear campaign, including handing over any electronic evidence or other files that may be requested.

Justice Iarfhlaith O'Neill has been charged with probing claims that senior gardai targeted an officer in a widespread character assassination.

He is to report back on his findings within six weeks.

It is understood that two senior gardai have made statements to justice chiefs that false and damaging allegations were made against the whistleblower and that one has said they were following orders.

Press Association

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