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Acting Garda Commissioner Dónall Ó Cualáin won't apply for the job

Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan announced she was retiring on Sunday.

Acting Garda Commissioner, Donall O Cualain, with the former Garda Commissioner Noírín O'Sullivan
Acting Garda Commissioner, Donall O Cualain, with the former Garda Commissioner Noírín O'Sullivan
Image: RollingNews.ie

ACTING GARDA COMMISSIONER Dónall Ó Cualáin has today said he will not be applying for the position of Commissioner when it is advertised by the Policing Authority.

“I am honoured to have been appointed acting Commissioner. My focus as acting Commissioner is to ensure that An Garda Síochána continues to protect and support communities, while progressing the significant changes to the organisation under the Modernisation and Renewal Programme,” Ó Cualáin said.

Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan confirmed she was stepping down in a surprise announcement on Sunday.

O’Sullivan said the “unending cycle” of committees and public hearings she had to attend was making it difficult to implement reform within the force.

“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,” she said.

Calls to step down

Calls had been mounting in the last year for the Commissioner to step down due to the ongoing scandals emerging from the force. Last week, An Garda Síochána revealed the full scale of the breath test scandal. Its internal investigation found a discrepancy of 1.4 million tests over an eight-year period.

In July, members of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) said O’Sullivan’s position was untenable following the committee’s findings in relation to financial irregularities at Templemore training college.

In its damning report, the PAC criticised a culture within the force of “withholding information, providing inadequate information and keeping issues internal to avoid external awareness and scrutiny of very significant financial issues” in the college.

On Monday, Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan said he was pleased the Policing Authority had begun the process to select O’Sullivan’s successor, noting that finding a replacement is likely to take months.

“It may include an international selection process, it may not,” he said.

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When asked about the €300,000 lump sum O’Sullivan is reportedly set to receive as well as her €90,000 pension, Flanagan said this acknowledges “her long service as a member of An Garda Síochana for almost 36 years”.

He said he appreciated O’Sullivan’s service within the force and wished her well in her retirement.

Speaking to RTÉ Radio 1′s Morning Ireland earlier this week, Sinn Féin’s deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald said O’Sullivan’s departure came “very belatedly” but offered an opportunity for reform within the force.

I’m very glad that she has done the right thing finally.

McDonald said Ireland is currently in “a very dangerous place” where many people don’t trust An Garda Síochána, stating: “The commissioner is gone but the problems remain.”

She added that someone “uncontaminated” by scandal is needed to lead the force.

Read: Ireland’s new Acting Garda Commissioner brought in to ‘keep things steady’

Read: Minister says Nóirín O’Sullivan’s pension will reflect her ‘experience, expertise and rank’

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Órla Ryan

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