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Garda top brass concerned they're in firing line after assistant commissioner's suspension

An assistant commissioner has been suspended from duty.

Fintan Fanning
Fintan Fanning
Image: Garda

SENIOR GARDAÍ ARE anxious that new commissioner Drew Harris is attempting to pave the way for new chief superintendents and assistant commissioners in the wake of the highly unusual suspension of a senior member. 

TheJournal.ie understands that there are worries that Harris wants a new breed of senior garda in place across the country as he attempts to make his own mark on the force. 

One source put it that “the old guard have to go if he wants to ring the changes”.

Other well-placed security sources described how rumours swept across the force last week about a cull of senior members. 

Initially, there was talk of two very high-profile retirements. However, this turned out to be unsubstantiated.

The concerns among senior members follow the suspension from duty of Assistant Commissioner Fintan Fanning pending a GSOC investigation into two complaints made by one officer. It is very rare that any senior officer would face suspension. 

That garda member has a history with Fanning. Both were stationed in the Dublin Metropolitan Region at the same time. The complainant accused Fanning of blocking him from going on specialist firearms training with the Regional Support Unit – something Fanning has vehemently denied in correspondence with Garda HQ.

It is understood a letter sent by his legal team completely denies the allegations made against him. The letter also states that Fanning has asked Harris to remove his suspension immediately.

On Friday, Fanning appeared in the High Court as he launched proceedings to have himself immediately reinstated to this position. The court heard that Fanning had no direct role in the selection process for firearms training for that unit. 

The High Court appearance also shed more light on how his suspension was handled. It was claimed that Assistant Commissioner David Sheahan was the person who officially recommended the suspension. Fanning’s solicitors claimed that no effort was made by Garda HQ to verify the complaints prior to his suspension.

The other complaint made by the garda about Fanning is more detailed. The garda was himself suspended from duty at the start of 2017 following an incident in a hotel. 

It had been alleged by a woman that the garda had attacked her in the hotel at a Christmas party. The garda was suspended from duty by a superintendent based in the western division.

However, after CCTV evidence was gathered in a garda probe, the investigation concluded that the suspended garda had done nothing wrong.

His suspension was removed and he was put back to work, and no further action was taken. However, he has claimed that full and due process was not served and that his suspension was a personal attack on him. Fanning said he had involvement in this suspension as part of his duties as an assistant commissioner.

In correspondence with the Garda Commissioner, Fanning has also vehemently denied any link to this accusation. He has hired legal representation. 

For such a high-ranking garda to be suspended in such a way came as a shock to gardaí.

Fanning has been a garda and has an unblemished record of service. He first promotion was to sergeant in 1989. He made Assistant Commissioner in 2008. He holds a master’s degree in police leadership as well as over a dozen other third level qualifications.

The action taken against Fanning is the second suspension of a senior official in recent months. 

In October, Garda Head of Human Resources John Barrett was suspended after an internal investigation into alleged disagreements between Barrett, a civilian, and other senior members of the force.

In a statement released at the time, An Garda Síochána said that it will not be making further comment on the senior officer’s suspension. “An Garda Siochana will not be commenting on the identity of the member.”

The Garda Press Office said it is not policy to comment on such matters.

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