Fianna Fáil hardens stance on Garda Commissioner

Deputy Sean Fleming says the party would remove the commissioner from office if it was in power

Fianna Fáil hardens stance on Garda Commissioner

Photo: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie

The chair of the Public Accounts Committee has said that if Fianna Fáil was in power, the party would remove the Garda Commissioner from office. 

On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, Fianna Fáil TD Sean Fleming said Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan’s position is ultimately a matter for the Minister for Justice.

“The legal responsibility to remove a commissioner is the responsibility of the government and the Minister for Justice,” he said. “We have said if Fianna Fáil was in government we would remove her from office.”

Mr Fleming’s comments come amid reports that his party is considering tabling a motion of no confidence in Commissioner O’Sullivan next week.

The party’s justice spokesperson Jim O’Callaghan has repeatedly insisted that he cannot express confidence in her – but stopped short of calling for her to be removed.

Sinn Féin has urged Fianna Fáil to “stop party politicking” and agree to support its own motion of no confidence when it is tabled – also next week.

Garda scandals

The motions are in response to the latest round of controversies engulfing the force.

Officials announced last month that major discrepancies had been discovered in the official garda roadside breath testing figures – with almost one million tests recorded that never occurred.

Separately it emerged that thousands of court summonses were issued for offences that should have been dealt with by way of fixed penalty notice.

Conflicting testimony

Speaking to Paul Williams this morning, Deputy Fleming said the commissioner had publicly contradicted herself in front of two different Oireachtas committees when asked about the effect of depleted member numbers on the forces capabilities.

In July 2014 she told the PAC that the loss had “in no way affected” the effectiveness of force – while last Wednesday, she appeared to point to understaffing as a contributory factor to the data falsification and wrongful conviction scandals.

Mr Fleming said he was “very surprised and taken aback” by the conflicting testimony.

“I think everybody in the public and within Dáil Éireann would believe that when a senior person comes in to an Oireachtas Committee to give evidence as a witness that they would be consistent and [...] give a true and honest opinion of their actual position,” he said.

“We got two different opinions and two different stories from the same person at two different committees,” he said.

“One way or the other she has publicly, on the Dáil record, contradicted herself and she must clarify that.”

Lost the dressing room

Deputy Fleming said the commissioner has lost the confidence of the public, the force and the majority of the Dáil:

“To use a sporting analogy, I think she has lost the dressing room at this stage as well as the stand as well as her shareholders so she is in a very, very difficult situation,” he said.

He said her situation was “not irretrievable” adding that there are actions she could take to win back support. 

The Tánaiste and Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald is due to meet opposition figures today to discuss the format of a root and branch review of the force.

You can listen back to Sean Fleming's conversation with Paul Williams here: