Garda Commissioner Noirín O'Sullivan announces retirement

Deputy Commissioner Dónall Ó Cualáin will serve as Acting Commissioner from midnight tonight

Garda Commissioner Noirín O'Sullivan announces retirement

Noirin O'Sullivan. Photo: Sam Boal/Rollingnews.ie

Updated 18.45

Garda Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan has announced that she is retiring from An Garda Síochána.

She notified the Taoiseach and Justice Minister this afternoon.

Minister for Justice Charles Flanagan has confirmed the move, and announced the appointment of Deputy Commissioner Dónall Ó Cualáin as Acting Commissioner with effect from midnight tonight.

Mrs O'Sullivan says she has enjoyed 36 years of privileged, enjoyable and proud service with An Garda Siochana, and she thanked the Taoiseach and Justice Minister for their continued confidence in her.

She says she devoted much of her summer break to considering the move, finally deciding to retire, take some time with her family and adapt to a new phase of her life.

However, she also expressed frustration at some of her experiences in the role.

She noted: "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.

"They are all part of a new – and necessary – system of public accountability. But when a Commissioner is trying – as I’ve been trying – to implement the deep cultural and structural reform that is necessary to modernise and reform an organisation of 16,000 people and rectify the failures and mistakes of the past, the difficulty is that the vast majority of her time goes, not to implementing the necessary reforms and meeting the obvious policing and security challenges, but to dealing with this unending cycle.”

She also said that she was not leaving her role to take up another job, adding: "I may decide to take on some other interesting and exciting challenge down the line."

Reaction

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan has expressed his sincere gratitude to the outgoing Commissioner, acknowledging her public service to the State in a hugely demanding role.

The Minister has wished Noirin O'Sullivan and her family well in her retirement and said he will brief the Government at the next Cabinet meeting.

He said: "In the coming weeks I will consult with the chair of the Policing Authority about a process to identify and appoint a permanent Commissioner to An Garda Síochána."

Mrs O'Sullivan's retirement comes on the back of fresh calls for her to resign over the latest controversy involving false Garda breath test data.

Reacting to this evening's news, Roisin Shortall of the Social Democrats suggested Mrs O'Sullivan's retirement should lead to a 'wider clear out' in Garda management.

In a statement, she observed: “The departure of the Garda Commissioner must be the start of a fundamental clear out at the top of An Garda Síochána.

"It is crucial that this is only the first step in a wider effort to rebuild the force from the ground up."

Labour leader Brendan Howlin welcomed Mrs O'Sullivan's decision, noting: "While I recognise the decades of service that Commissioner O'Sullivan has given the State it is clearly in the interests of policing and the urgently required reform of An Garda Síochána that we have new leadership in the force."

Meanwhile, Green Party Justice Spokesperson Councillor Roderic O’Gorman observed: “The position of Garda Commissioner Noirín O’Sullivan has been the source of controversy for some time, and we welcome her resignation this evening.

“Public confidence in the force has not recovered under her stewardship, and while she deserves credit for kick-starting long overdue reform in the Gardaí, the way she has handled repeated controversies has left a lot to be desired."

Additional reporting by Nicole Gernon