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The 8 answers the Commissioner gave when asked if she had confidence in her team

Labour TD Alan Kelly said he found it “alarming” that the Garda Commissioner could not express confidence in everyone on her management team.

The Garda Commissioner and other senior officers at a Policing Authority meeting in April.
The Garda Commissioner and other senior officers at a Policing Authority meeting in April.
Image: Leak Farrell/RollingNews.ie

YESTERDAY THE GARDA Commissioner appeared before the Public Accounts Committee again to answer further questions about financial irregularities at the garda college in Templemore.

She revealed to the committee that there is now reasonable cause to suspect fraud has been committed in relation to one account connected to the college and that large sums of money are involved.

This was the fourth session of the PAC tasked with delving into the minefield that is Templemore’s financial structure and accountability for what happened. To the dismay of committee members, the previous three sessions were dominated by contradictions and very clear tension between senior managers in the organisation.

Labour TD Alan Kelly, who chaired yesterday’s PAC session, has previously asked witnesses from An Garda Síochána whether they have confidence in their management team. Most said they did, but two – head of internal audit Niall Kelly and executive director of HR John Barrett – said they had “questions” and “reservations”.

Yesterday Kelly took the opportunity to ask this same question of the Garda Commissioner. Unlike some of her employees who appeared before the committee, Nóirín O’Sullivan did not answer with a simple ‘Yes’ or ‘No, prompting the Labour TD to ask her eight times in total.

Here’s how she answered:

Alan Kelly: ”I’ve asked this question numerous times inside in this committee so I’ll ask you the same thing. Do you have confidence in everybody who’s at senior management level within the Garda Síochána, given the level of contradictions, the evidence that’s been given, – the dare I say it – almost hostility that some witnesses who are working together have with one another?

“Do you have full confidence in all of their ability and their capacity to work together?”

Nóirín O’Sullivan: ”Deputy, my job is to make the most effective use and the most cohesive use of the team that I have, so, our focus, as the executive here and as the senior leadership team is to ensure that we provide cohesion to the team.

“We’re doing that in a number of ways because it is very important, these are very important people positioned in the organisation and we’re doing that in a number of ways, including working very closely with the department and the policing authority in terms of getting additional professional skillsets in place to support the team.

Alan Kelly:

Okay, can you answer my question now, please?

Nóirín O’Sullivan:

Well deputy, I have to work, with the team I have and get the best out of them.

Alan Kelly: ”Okay, third time. Will you answer my question, please?”

Nóirín O’Sullivan: ”Deputy, I work every day with the team I have to get the very best out of them.”

Alan Kelly:

Okay, fourth time, will you answer my question please?

Nóirín O’Sullivan:

Deputy, I have confidence that we are working to get the very best out of the team.

Alan Kelly: “Okay, so I’ll repeat it. Do you have confidence in every single member of senior management in An Garda Síochána who [are] in current positions – and the majority of them have been witnesses here – have you full confidence in each and every one of them and their capacity to work together?”

Nóirín O’Sullivan:  “Deputy, with respect, I think there could be two separate questions. Capacity is one thing and getting the team to work together as a cohesive collective team is the second one.”

Alan Kelly: “Well, you can break it down whichever way you want. I’ll make it simplier for you so.

Do you have full confidence in them in their roles? First question.
Secondly, have you full confidence every member of your senior management team has the capacity to do their job?
And thirdly, have you confidence, collectively, that they can all work together to the best of An Garda Síochána and in the best interests of the Irish public?

Nóirín O’Sullivan:

Okay, well, maybe if I take the last one first. Yes I am confident that we are working together to create a cohesive effective team. I think that is greatly assisted by the capacity issue, which means that we have new people brought onto the team in recent times. There’s new skillsets, different perspectives, and I think that’s a very positive thing.
And I have confidence also, going forward, that we will and can create a cohesive effective team and I think that will be very much supported by the skillsets that we are working to bring into and onto the team.

Alan Kelly, at this stage on his seventh attempt at asking the question, told the Commissioner the was “not getting a clear answer”.

“I’ve seen contradictions all over the place, I have seen issues in relation to interpersonal relationships, we all have here, in fairness and evidence that’s contradictory. And I think it’s imperative that you honestly answer that you have full confidence in each and every one of them given what has transpired in front of the public accounts [committee] on this issue,” he told her.

Nóirín O’Sullivan: “Well, deputy, if I put it like this, and maybe, if I look back on 2014 to now. We have worked, it’s only very recently – as in the last couple of weeks – that we actually have anywhere close to full complement of a management team.

“In fact it was not until January of this year that we actually have a fully functioning executive. And that’s due to nobody’s fault here. But the reality is, that what we have to do since 2014 is build up a team and build up an effective team. And any organisation that is going through the type of deep structural change, cultural change and reform that we are going through, you will always have tensions within teams.

“And our job is to make sure that we pull together that team into a cohesive effective team. And I am confident that we are doing that. And I am confidence that the members of te team, supported by the appropriate skillsets, will be in a position to continue to provide effective leadership.”

Alan Kelly: ”Okay, so you have confidence in every single person?”

Nóirín O’Sullivan: ”I have confidence in the collective ability of the team.”

Alan Kelly: ”That doesn’t mean you have confidence in every individual. I find that absolutely alarming.”

Read: Commissioner refuses to name retired officer who was signatory on ‘suspicious’ account>

Read: Deputy Commissioner describes ‘clash’ and ‘lack of trust’ between two senior civil servants>

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