Belfast Telegraph

No special pension deal for ex-Garda commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan - minister

Former Garda commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan did not get a special pension deal as part of her retirement, Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan has said.

The first woman to hold the top job, Ms O'Sullivan said she was leaving the force after facing an "unending cycle" of public and political scrutiny amid a welter of controversies over bad policing.

She said that most of her time in the role was spent being held accountable rather than reforming and meeting policing and security challenges.

Mr Flanagan revealed that he had suspected the former commissioner's departure, weeks before it was announced on Sunday evening.

"I wasn't surprised at the news," he said.

"The possibility that commissioner O'Sullivan might retire was flagged to me over the last couple of weeks."

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said she had retired in the best interests of the force.

Among the damaging scandals to have surrounded Ms O'Sullivan's tenure was the revelation that officers had recorded 1.5 million bogus breath tests, the treatment of whistle-blowers, in particular Sergeant Maurice McCabe, inaccurate homicide records and irregular financial affairs at the Templemore training college.

Mr Flanagan said Ms O'Sullivan had discussions with officials in the Department of Justice over her retirement in the weeks before announcing her decision.

She had been on five weeks of extended leave up until early September.

Mr Flanagan insisted her pension arrangements were in line with state rules and take into account that she was head of the force and had 36 years service and "no more".

Gardai can retire on full pension from age 50 and after 30 years service.

"The pension entitlement is entirely in line with the guidelines, rules and regulations set down," Mr Flanagan told RTE Radio.

The minister said he expects it to take several months for a new commissioner to be appointed.

The Policing Authority is expected to be centrally involved in advising the Government on the new appointment.

"I'm sure that everything that Noirin O'Sullivan has done in the course of a long and distinguished career was in the best interest of the Garda Siochana," Mr Flanagan added.

Sinn Fein's deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald called for Ms O'Sullivan's successor to come from outside the force, even if it means separating security and intelligence functions out of the commissioner's office.

Labour's Brendan Howlin called for the Government to promote the vacancy overseas to get a candidate with international standing.

The Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors said policing reform should be a priority for the next commissioner.

General secretary John Jacob said Ms O'Sullivan had started work that was long overdue and he praised her fortitude.

"We had a good working relationship with the commissioner," he said.

"I would like to pay tribute to commissioner O'Sullivan who displayed great character and determination in the face of a series of controversies affecting our organisation and her staff.

"We would like to see operational transformation prioritised by her successor and we look forward to working with him or her when appointed by the Policing Authority."

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