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'An unending cycle': These were the scandals the Garda Commissioner faced questions over

Over the past year members of the PAC and opposition parties have called for Nóirín O’Sullivan to step down.

NÓIRÍN O’SULLIVAN ANNOUNCED her retirement yesterday after a three-year tenure at the top of An Garda Síochána.

Calls had been mounting for the Garda Commissioner to step aside due to the ongoing scandals emerging from the force, despite many of them being historic and relating to events before her time in charge.

O’Sullivan was appointed as Garda Commissioner in November 2014, after she took on the acting role after the previous commissioner Martin Callinan stepped down after he described Garda whistleblowers’ allegations as “disgusting”.

Whistleblower Story Martin Callinan has a word in the ear of Noirin O Sullivan Eamonn Farrell Eamonn Farrell

In July 2015, she defended appointing her husband Detective Superintendent Jim McGowan to lead a criminal investigation into contacts between a senior garda and journalists. The investigation began after the media reported on two cases where Roma children were taken from their families but later returned following DNA tests.

In May 2016, several opposition TDs called for the commissioner’s resignation after allegations surfaced that she advised her legal team to challenge the integrity, motivation and credibility of whistleblower Maurice McCabe. The O’Higgins Report – which examined allegations of garda malpractice in the Cavan/Monaghan district – found a number of serious failings in relation to the gardaí and the investigation of cases in the area.

In a statement, O’Sullivan denied that her senior counsel was instructed – at any stage – to impugn the integrity of the sergeant or to make a case that he was acting maliciously. However, she conceded that there was a challenge made in respect of his credibility and motivation.

In November 2016, O’Sullivan admitted that she used a private gmail account to discuss garda business. It is against garda regulations to use a commercial email accounts for official business but the force said she did so “due to restrictions with the garda email system such as e-mail size and storage” and to “ensure that garda business has been discharged effectively”.

In February 2017, the Policing Authority chairwoman Josephine Feehily questioned whether O’Sullivan should continue as commissioner while the Charleton Inquiry is being held. The public inquiry was set up to investigate claims that Sergeant Maurice McCabe was subjected to a smear campaign at the behest of garda management. Some people suggested O’Sullivan should stand aside for the duration of the tribunal.

TRIBUNAL 716_90518767 Maurice McCabe arriving at the Disclosures Tribunal, chaired by Supreme Court Judge Peter Charleton Sam Boal Sam Boal

In March 2017, an interim report on large-scale financial irregularities at Templemore College was submitted and the Policing Authority was informed of financial mismanagement.

These irregularities included a fund that was used for gifts and entertainment, rent collected for a site that should have been paid to the Office of Public Works and the transfer of money to the Garda Boat Club, which was described by one TD as “embezzlement”.

In May 2017, Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin called for Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan to step down following her appearance before the Public Accounts Committee to answer questions over the irregularities in the finances of the garda college in Templemore.

During the hearing, executive director of human resources as Templemore College John Barrett openly contradicted O’Sullivan about a meeting they had in relation to finances at the garda college in 2015.

In the same month it also emerged that O’Sullivan delayed informing the Justice Minister of the financial irregularities at the college.

Commission of Inquiry Frances Fitzgerald, listening to Garda Commissioner, Noirin O'Sullivan talking to the media Mark Stedman Mark Stedman

Meanwhile, the commissioner’s phone, which was due to provide evidence for the Charleton Inquiry along with a number of others, went missing. The force has since changed a policy of giving used mobile phones to charity.

In July 2017, 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.

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.

Meanwhile, Labour leader Brendan Howlin described the timing of O’Sullivan taking a five-week holiday with the work of the PAC ongoing as “strange”.

Just last week, there were fresh calls for the commissioner to step down after the latest revelations about false breath tests. An Garda Síochána internal investigation found a discrepancy of 1.4 million tests over an eight-year period.

0874  Noirin O Sullivan_90506919 Leah Farrell Leah Farrell

Announcing her retirement yesterday, O’Sullivan said the “unending cycle” of committees and public hearing 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.”

Read: ‘She has finally done the right thing’: Reaction to Nóirín O’Sullivan’s retirement>

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