THE GARDA COMMISSIONER has asked middle-ranking gardaí to tell her how they think discrepancies in breath tests and errors with fixed charge notices occurred.
After a silent reception from delegates as she entered the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI) conference hall this afternoon, Nóirin O’Sullivan noted there were “very experienced supervisors and managers from right around the country” in the room with her.
“In our closed session I very much look forward to hearing what exactly you think led to the discrepancies in the figures around breath tests and also what you believe led to the FCPNs [Fixed Charge Penalty Notices] that were issued in error to people, and as your President has said, who appeared before the courts,” she said.
“I am very anxious to hear that because certainly from where I am standing, if you look at the discrepancies around breath tests, if we compare our data with the data on the road safety website, there are somewhere in the region of a discrepancy of one million breath tests. We know from the analysis so far that it is right around the country.”
It is either that somebody somewhere didn’t count the figures right or that somebody somewhere put the wrong figures into the machines.
In her speech, which lasted over 40 minutes, O’Sullivan said she also wanted to hear suggestions from the middle-ranking gardaí during their closed session with her about what was needed to fix these issues. ”Because that is the cultural shift that we are having,” she told them.
She said she recognised the members sitting in front of her had their fingers on the pulse and this means they are keenly aware of the good work done by their colleagues in the lower ranks.
“You see the bravery in the face of danger and you see their courtesy and their kindness and their empathy when they’re dealing with distress.”
Following the closed session, she told reporters:
“We had a very interesting discussion. What’s evident is no one actually has the answers, as of yet, to how these breath tests occurred, but what is very, very clear is that there is an absolute determination and commitment to get to the answers, that’s the work that [Assistant Commissioner] Michael O’Sullivan is doing.”
Earlier this afternoon, the association’s president Antoinette Cunningham called on the Commissioner to show real leadership in this time of crisis.
“We listen to ourselves being pilloried, and watch our politicians playing, in some cases, political ping-pong across the chambers of Dail Eireann. We hear of commissions, tribunals, reform, root and branch examinations and talks of no confidence,” she said.
“Everyone has an opinion, but no one seems to have a real long term sustainable plan for what this reform will look like. Meanwhile, on the ground morale sinks even lower, there is a stink of negativity in the air and members go on with their daily duties with trying to re-build public trust.”
There is a collective and joint responsibility amongst us all to restore public confidence, and reassure the members of the public that collectively we will work together to ensure no such matters will ever again happen again.
Cunningham said she must challenge the Commissioner on some of the remarks she made to the Oireachtas Justice Committee recently.
“Your comments that the two recent controversies highlight ‘at best incompetence and at worse deception’ were unfair to the majority of decent, honourable and hard-working sergeants and inspectors, who have served, and will continue to serve, this organisation well for so many years.
“You did not show the due process that all members are entitled to, and your comments left a sense of everyone being damaged in an unfair way, when some or many may have had no involvement in this crisis as all,” she told O’Sullivan.
“Generalisations are dangerous in the absence of evidence and fair procedures should be applied to sergeants and inspectors just as much as for senior garda management.”
We’ll have more from the conference in Killarney tomorrow -follow @michellehtweet for updates.