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The controversial head of the Garda Ombudsman is resigning

Simon O’Brien is taking up a new post in the UK next month after a turbulent spell as GSOC chair.

Outgoing GSOC chairman Simon O'Brien
Outgoing GSOC chairman Simon O'Brien
Image: Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland

Update 6.10pm

SIMON O’BRIEN, THE chairman of the Garda Ombudsman (GSOC), is to resign at the end of the month to take up a role in the UK.

O’Brien’s resignation was confirmed in a statement from GSOC this afternoon and brings to an end his controversial three-year spell as chairman of the much-maligned watchdog which was at the centre of many of the recent controversies related to the gardaí.

O’Brien will leave his post on 30 January to take up a role as chief executive of the Pensions Ombudsman Service in the UK on 2 February.

“I have been in Ireland for five years in two posts. This is a significant opportunity and I am looking forward to the new challenge. The new post will bring me back home to be with my wife and young family in London,” O’Brien said in a brief statement today.

O’Brien is a former chief superintendent at London’s Metropolitan Police and also worked for the Association of Chief Police Officers in the UK before taking up a role as deputy to the chief inspector of an Garda Síochána in 2010.

He became chair of GSOC in December 2011, but his tenure became mired in controversy last year after the Sunday Times reported in February that a surveillance operation was used to hack into the communications system at the Garda Ombudsman’s office.

Months of debate, Oireachtas committee hearings, claim and counter claim followed before it was eventually found by a state inquiry, led by retired judge John Cooke, that there was no evidence that the GSOC headquarters was bugged by the gardaí – or anybody else.

Following the controversy the former justice minister Alan Shatter, who lost his job over garda controversies in May, called on O’Brien and his fellow commissioners to step down.

He insisted in September that their positions were no longer tenable in the wake of the bugging controversy and subsequent investigations.

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Speaking under Dáil privilege, Shatter said: “From the start of this affair, GSOC have sought to cover up and keep secret a disturbing level of incompetence and failure to comply with their statutory obligations.

“This is unacceptable and it is contrary to the public interest that GSOC Commissioners remain in place and that these matters are left unresolved, in particular in light of new and additional GSOC powers proposed in forthcoming legislation.”

Later that month Shatter’s successor Frances Fitzgerald expressed confidence in the senior membership of GSOC.

Today, she thanked him for the “important and valuable contributions” he has made in his roles in GSOC and the Garda Inspectorate. She also wished him “all the best in his endeavours in his new career”.

First published 14.58pm

Read: Who leaked bugging information to newspaper? Nobody knows but GSOC has stopped trying to find out

Read: Alan Shatter wants the GSOC Commissioners to be sacked

About the author:

Hugh O'Connell

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