Belfast Telegraph

Republic of Ireland's top police officer steps down as head of scandal-hit Garda

By Michael McHugh

The Republic's Garda Commissioner has quit her post, leaving the Irish Government in turmoil and plunging the country's police service into a deepening crisis.

Noirin O'Sullivan said she was leaving the top police post after an "unending cycle" of scrutiny amid efforts to rectify the failures and mistakes of the past.

The commissioner faced opposition calls to step aside following queries over how she dealt with officers massively inflating the number of breathalyser tests carried out, and police whistleblowers.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said: "Her decision to retire is made in the best interests of An Garda Siochana and ensuring that it can focus on the extensive programme of reform that is now under way."

The commissioner has served 36 years in the force. She said: "It has become clear, over the last year that the core of my job is now about responding to an unending cycle of requests, questions, instructions and public hearings involving various agencies including the Public Accounts Committee, the Justice and Equality Committee, the Policing Authority, and various other inquiries, and dealing with inaccurate commentary surrounding all of these matters.

"They are all part of a new, and necessary, system of public accountability.

"But when a commissioner is trying, as I've been trying, to implement the deep cultural and structural reform that is necessary to modernise and reform an organisation of 16,000 people and rectify the failures and mistakes of the past, the difficulty is that the vast majority of her time goes, not to implementing the necessary reforms and meeting the obvious policing and security challenges, but to dealing with this unending cycle."

A critical report on the scale of fake breath test reports by gardai found 1,458,221 bogus drink and drug-driving checks from 2009 to 2016, prompting calls for the commissioner to be sacked.

Official statisticians previously raised concerns about crime data and said almost a fifth of all crime reported is still not recorded on the Garda's systems.

In June this year Garda IT specialists admitted scores more people have been killed in the Republic than official figures have claimed over the past decade and a half.

The breath test scandal prompted the Government to introduce a commission similar to that reforming policing in Northern Ireland to review management, training, recruitment, culture and oversight of the Garda.

Irish Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan said he would press ahead with the necessary reform programme.

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