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'Garda HR boss has done a great service to the country' - Alan Kelly

The PAC wants to bring the Garda Commissioner in earlier than planned.

John Barrett has done the country a great service… [he] has done this at a very large personal cost to himself.

LABOUR’S ALAN KELLY has commended the Garda Síochána’s Head of Human Resources John Barrett for giving evidence at the Public Accounts Committee.

Barrett appeared before the PAC last week in relation to alleged financial irregularities at the Garda Training College in Templemore.

Garda Commissioner Noírín O’Sullivan said she was unaware of the cash controversy at Templemore until she had “a brief chat” with Barrett in a reception area over a cup of tea, something he has denied.

Barrett told the PAC that he had taken extensive minutes of the meeting – six pages to be exact – and said the meeting lasted over two hours.

On Tuesday, a new dossier relating to the alleged misappropriation of funds was given the committee members.

It details how Barrett had raised concerns after an audit which was carried out found evidence that public monies were being spent on entertainment and luxury gifts.

Speaking to TheJournal.ie about the controversy, Kelly said he believes Barrett has been let down by the authorities.

He was a very good witness. I think Barrett has backed up what he said in the PAC with the documentation that was given to the PAC.
“I think Barrett has done this at a very large personal cost to himself. You will see from the correspondence that this has been very difficult for him professionally. From what I read, he feels he has been undermined and treated differently. He has had his role changed in the organisation and has had responsibility taken from him.
In fairness to the man, he has been very brave. It shows he came in from outside the force and what he saw was unacceptable… and he was determined to see this through. I think he was let down, but given what has happened now, he is going to be vindicated.

Kelly said he believes that Barrett has paved the way and urged others who have concerns about garda management to speak out.

“I expect that there will be other controversies and other issues that will come out in other weeks and months in relation to how An Garda Síochana is run.”

“Where are the Revenue in this?,” asked Kelly, adding: “I believe there is a role for the Revenue in this.

Can you imagine a small business in Ireland or self-employed people and they accidentally do something wrong with their tax returns – they would be crucified.

The vice-chair of the PAC has said he is meeting with his committee colleagues today to discuss bringing the Garda Commissioner in earlier than planned.

She was due to appear before the committee on 13 July – but Kelly said she needs to come in sooner in the light of the new evidence members received this week.

Reiterating his view that he no longer has confidence in the Commissioner, he called on the government to take action. The Tipperary TD also had harsh words for Fianna Fáil for not forcing the government’s hand on the matter.

“It is incredible that the government are still supporting the Commissioner who has questions over her over a whole range of issues. But Fianna Fáil are letting the State down and this country down. If they are saying they don’t have confidence in the Garda Síochana, how can they have confidence in the minister for justice who has confidence in the Garda Commissisoner.”

Why does he think the government has not taken action?

The leadership issue, which the Taoiseach said he would address next week, could be an issue, he mused.

“I certainly think the fact that Enda Kenny isn’t going to be the long-term leader of the country and leader of Fine Gael is a consideration here, because he basically doesn’t seem to be that interested.”

Policing Authority meeting Dublin Garda Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan Source: PA Wire/PA Images

Garda review 

Cultural change within the gardaí is badly needed, said Kelly, who said morale is at an all-time low.

Kathleen O’Toole, the police chief in Seattle, has been tasked with overseeing a root and branch review of the gardaí.

Her appointment caused some surprise as she was a member of the board that hired Nóirín O’Sullivan as Garda Commissioner.

Speaking to the Irish Independent yesterday, she rejected the idea that her appointment represents a conflict of interest.

Kelly said it would have been better to appoint someone who had no affiliations to the gardaí, but added that he was in no way casting any aspersions on O’Toole.

“By all accounts she is very good at her job, I don’t know her. It probably would have been better if it was somebody that wasn’t in that position,” he said.

Read: Garda Commissioner expected to be brought before PAC earlier than planned>

Read: Garda allegedly shared video of woman’s arrest on WhatsApp days before she took her own life>

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