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Being a woman makes no difference whatsoever --- Commissioner

“It’s very important that we don’t stereotype each other by gender or anything else. It’s down to human interaction…”

Image: Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland

Updated at 10.50pm

NEW GARDA COMMISSIONER Noirín O’Sullivan says the fact that she is an ‘insider’ in the force will give her an advantage as she begins her tenure in Irish policing’s top job

Speaking to the media at Garda HQ in the Phoenix Park this evening, she said her experience in the force “gives me a distinct advantage because I know the organisation”.

I know the people in the organisation — but also I understand and I know the communities, and I certainly know the things that need to be done to improve the service that we provide.

O’Sullivan’s promotion from her ‘acting’ role to full commissioner has been criticised by some — including Independent TD Mick Wallace, who said it showed there was no commitment to reform within the force or the Government.

A number of high-profile candidates from overseas applied for the job, which was filled after what the Government described as a “global search” followed by two rounds of interviews.

Speaking tonight, O’Sullivan said:

I’m very happy that actually I’ve gone through a process in an open competition, because I understand that a number of people had put themselves forward.

Source: Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland

Asked whether the fact that she’s a woman would have any bearing on how she does her job, she replied:

“Absolutely not.

“I think its really important for me to say that.

It’s very important that we don’t stereotype each other by gender or anything else. It’s down to human interaction and human beings dealing with each other.

And regarding Wallace’s complaints that she was in a key position in the force throughout the recent run of penalty points and other controversies, collectively known as ‘Gardagate’, she said:

I think everyone is entitled to their opinion.

“I think where we have to focus is on the work that we need to do and on listening to people. Certainly if people have ideas we want to hear their ideas.”

O’Sullivan said she was willing to listen to “everybody” as she commenced her role, and talked up the recently-launched Garda ‘Public Attitudes Survey’ — the first of its kind since 2008.

The Commissioner said she was “very attuned to all of the controversies and all of the crises we’ve been through”.

“But I think those type of things make you much stronger and much more prepared

There were lessons to be learnt. We’ve learnt them and we’re ready to apply those lessons.

Priorities

“Making sure that, in the first instance, we work to prevent people becoming victims of crime,” will be a key priority, O’Sullivan stressed. Part of that will mean addressing the concerns raised in the Garda Inspectorate Report.

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The wide-ranging report, published last week, uncovered a litany of shortfalls in how victims are dealt with by local officers — particularly victims of domestic violence. It also recommended an upgrade in technology, effective systems and changes to management practice.

The Inspectorate Report points out that there are pockets of really good practice and indeed they do say that there are instances of domestic violence where victims have been dealt with with great understanding and empathy by members of An Garda Síochána,” O’Sullivan said.

“Our focus is to make sure that that consistent and standardised service is provided right throughout the organisation.

“Standardisation and consistency,” for all victims of crime will be of the highest importance, the Commissioner said.

Our members are working with the NGOs and the other groups that are there — we will work together with those groups to make sure people get appropriate referrals and appropriate support right through the system.

The force’s ‘Professional Standards Unit’ will monitor compliance with policy set by headquarters and address any problems that arise, she added.

Source: Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland

Regarding morale within the 13,000-or-so strong force, she said members had been through a “rollercoaster of uncertainty” in recent years.

She had already begun to address the issue of morale, she said, before going on to pay tribute to the men and women of An Garda Síochána “out there morning, noon and night, 365 days of the year” protecting communities. 

Profile: Who is the new Commissioner of An Garda Síochána?

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Daragh Brophy

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