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Massive infighting among top gardaí over Templemore scandal

A series of documents delivered by gardaí to the Public Accounts Committee detail a war of words among the Garda hierarchy.
May 25th 2017, 6:24 PM 31,123 49

Garda graduation ceremony Source: PA Archive/PA Images

A SERIES OF Garda documents which have been released to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) by the force detail a level of infighting among senior officers over the fallout from the ongoing Templemore College finances scandal.

According to the leaked documents which have been seen by TheJournal.ie, there have been tensions between several senior gardaí for a number of years over financial management at the training school.

An interim report from Garda Internal Audit into financial procedures at the Tipperary Garda College (between 2009 and 2016) released in March had stated that no assurance could be given that those procedures were even ‘adequate’.

The newly-revealed documents show accusations flying between various department heads within the force, including claims that the head of the Garda Internal Audit said the problems could even lead to people being arrested.

The college already stood accused of running a complex series of 50 bank accounts, operated by staff with little or no financial training, with those accounts used for unclear purposes.

Examples of questionable practices discovered by the audit include the operation of a Garda Laundry Account, which was used to fund expenses such as jewellery, flowers, and staff bonuses, and €125,000 worth of rent being collected by gardaí on a farm that was not owned by the force.

culhane Michael Culhane

niall kelly Niall Kelly

Included in the dossier is a letter from Executive Director of Finance and Services Michael Culhane which castigates the head of Garda Internal Audit Niall Kelly who was the man behind February’s interim report. In that letter, Culhane takes issue with a number of statements which he attributes to Kelly. He describes these references as “outrageous”.

Culhane also notes that he had made a formal complaint against his fellow senior officer, Executive Director of Human Resources John Barrett. Earlier this month, at a meeting of the PAC, Barrett had openly contradicted Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan in her presence about a meeting they had in relation to the financial governance issues at the college in 2015.

Culhane further asserts in his letter that “€30,000 had been wasted on consultancy of no obvious value”.

The dossier to PAC, which also details documents concerning the ill-defined Garda Sportsfield Co, one of many companies set up to handle funds at the College in the 2000s, further suggests that Kelly had been in the process of compiling a report on the college for “some time”, and had “been trying to engage in discussions and get management responses from the Finance Directorate in relation to them”.

One note from then Commissioner Fachtna Murphy dated as far back as May 2008 suggests that:

“While the investigation (of the college’s finances) to date has not revealed any misappropriation of funds, nevertheless I am concerned at the issues disclosed and clearly these matters have to be regularised as a matter of urgency.”

john barrett John Barrett

Another set of emails detail how the publication of an internal audit of the college was delayed “after a lot of tooing and frooing” for a period of three months in 2010 to allow “enough time… to sort out the taxation and any other financial issues”.

Regarding this delay, Kelly told the PAC earlier this month that he was “duped” into believing action would be taken with regard to his concerns.

“I think there was a different culture at that stage. I think there was a culture of circling the wagons and I got caught trying to bang into the wagons,” he said.

The documents, which show correspondence between various figures in garda management over a number of years, includes a letter referenced by Independent TD Catherine Connolly during that same hearing on 4 May.

The Galway deputy said that garda management had discovered a letter, written by former deputy commissioner Nacie Rice in September 2009, related to concerns about financial management.

After reading it, Connolly said: “Am I over the top when I read this and draw the conclusion that it explains why nothing was done between 2008 and a few years later? This is the very reason, because the man in charge of the college said, ‘Feck off, this is our money’, that is, this money is from the government, through the Vote system.”

In that letter, Rice states that in considering the financial irregularities at Templemore:

It is important to point out that all of the named companies and committees were formed at a time when there was no money made available by the state to develop and improve the welfare and sporting facilities for those young people joining the Garda Síochána and for which far-seeing people primarly attached to the Garda College saw a huge need.

“The only means at the time to develop and improve the social and sporting culture was by the formation of the said committees and companies,” he continues.

“There is no suggestion that any funds generated were used for any other purpose. Indeed the monies collected in these funds were contributed either directly or indirectly by all members who use the college as students, probationers and by those attending various courses.

For these reasons I strongly believe that any surplus money does not belong to the State but rather is owned by members of AGS from whom they were collected and I equally hold that any money cannot be used except for the welfare and development of facilities for members at the Garda College.

However, he did add that he supported “the notion that the various committees should be re-invigorated and an examination carried out to see if the various welfare committees still have currency”.

The documents are now due to be examined further by members of the Public Accounts Committee.

Read: Explainer: How does a homeless family end up having to present at a Garda station for shelter?

Read: Simon Coveney on the search for 6 TDs to swap sides in secret ballot

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Cianan Brennan

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