Republic of Ireland news

Noirin O'Sullivan: Garda Commissioner resists calls to quit over fake figures

Garda Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan has rejected calls for her to stand down over a drink-driving test row. Picture by Niall Carson, Press Association
Brian Hutton, Press Association

GARDA chief Noirin O'Sullivan is facing down pressure for her to resign over the latest debacle to rock the force.

As the Dáil faces a motion of no confidence in the commissioner next week over a gross exaggeration in the number of drink-driving tests being carried out, Ms O'Sullivan signalled she was going nowhere.

"I have a journey of work that I have to do and I have to make sure I see through that commitment," she told reporters at a press conference at Garda headquarters yesterday.

Ms O'Sullivan had met Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald earlier in the day.

Last week, an audit revealed almost one million fewer drink-driving breath tests were carried out than the force had claimed.

One of the force's official watchdogs, the Policing Authority, said the discrepancies raised widespread concern about how gardaí go about their work on a daily basis.

The oversight body said it was not just a statistical matter but "an ethical one".

Garda deputy commissioner John Twomey admitted the staggering discrepancy was "unethical and it will not be tolerated".

It was also admitted last week 14,700 people were wrongly convicted of motoring offences because of issues with the fixed penalty system.

Ms O'Sullivan said it gave the force no comfort to say it had identified the issues only disclosed a number of days ago.

Adding she had heard the "disquiet" around the latest revelations, the Garda chief vowed to drive through a "radical restructuring" of the traffic corps.

A review into the latest controversy to hit the force is expected to conclude initial findings within three months.

"We have to get to the bottom of where this problem is," Ms O'Sulllivan said.

"Who has done what and what has been done. We have to get to the bottom of this."

But Labour leader Brendan Howlin said claims no deliberate distortion of facts or falsification of figures had yet been established were "quite literally, incredible".

"Exaggerated numbers of breath tests, almost a million of them, were recorded," he said.

"Whether this happened deliberately or by mistake, somebody must accept responsibility for either position."

Sinn Féin has published a motion of no confidence in Ms O'Sullivan.

Jonathan O'Brien, the party's justice spokesman, said her position is untenable.

"The Government should now use the power provided to it, under the 2005 Garda Síochána Act, to remove her from office," he said.

However, Enda Kenny yesterday restated his confidence in the commissioner.

The Taoiseach said it would take some time for Policing Authority-driven reforms to have a "real impact" on the culture and the perception of the force.

Fianna Fáil said it could not express confidence in Ms O'Sullivan until she fully sets out the facts of the latest debacle.

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