Nomination of Mr. Patrick Sullivan to be a member of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission


“That Dáil Éireann, noting that the Government on 8 May 2018 nominated Mr. Patrick Sullivan for appointment by the President to be a member of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission, recommends, pursuant to section 65(1)(b) of the Garda Síochána Act 2005, that he be appointed by the President to be a member of the Commission.”

Dáil Motion

12 June 2018


Opening Statement

I move the motion a Cheann Comhairle.


The appointment of members of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) is governed by the provisions of the Garda Síochána Act 2005.  It requires the Government to satisfy itself that a person to be nominated for appointment has the appropriate experience, qualifications, training or expertise for appointment.  The Act also provides that a member of GSOC is appointed by the President, following the nomination by the Government and the passage of resolutions by both Houses of the Oireachtas recommending the appointment.  The Government nominated Mr. Patrick Sullivan at its meeting on 8 May and I am pleased to formally recommend to the House that Members approve Mr. Patrick Sullivan for appointment by the President to be a member of GSOC. 


Mr. Sullivan was recommended by the Public Appointments Service (PAS) as the best qualified candidate for the position.  This followed an independent, international competition organised by PAS.


I can assure the House that Mr. Sullivan brings with him a wealth of experience from his work with various federal agencies in the US.  The expertise he has gained in a career which spans over 40 years in Federal law enforcement will bring a different perspective to the excellent work of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission.


The House will agree that it is vital that the public has strong confidence in the Garda Síochána and the system of oversight of the Garda Síochána. I believe that Mr. Sullivan’s vast experience in oversight within Federal agencies in the United States of America will only serve to enhance the existing confidence in GSOC's role of investigating complaints against members of our police service.  His most recent position as Assistant Inspector General for Investigations in the Environmental Protection Agency's Office of Inspector General, which required the supervision of both criminal and administrative investigative cases, equips him very well for the position.


The role also required Mr. Sullivan's appearance before both Congressional and Senate committees to provide testimony into the actions taken by Environmental Protection Agency staff.  I know that the Justice and Equality Committee had hoped to have the opportunity to hear from Mr Sullivan prior to his appointment.  However, I understand that he was unavailable due to commitments to his current employers in the US.  Nevertheless, I hope that the Committee will have an opportunity to hear from Mr. Sullivan in due course.


Prior to holding this role, Mr. Sullivan was Deputy Assistant Director of the Department of Homeland Security/Transportation Security Administration Federal Air Marshall Service and Assistant Director of the Government Accountability Office of Special Investigations.


In his 23 years as a special agent in the secret service, Mr. Sullivan had a variety of high profile assignments which include the Counterfeit Division, Presidential Protection Division, Anti-smuggling Unit and the Organised Crime Strike Force.


These are indeed, I’m sure the House will agree, impressive credentials and I have every confidence that the work of GSOC will be strengthened by his presence there.


The background to Mr. Sullivan’s nomination as a member of GSOC arises from the resignation of Mr. Mark Toland last October.  Mr. Toland resigned to take up appointment of Chief Inspector with the Garda Síochána Inspectorate.  Mr. Toland’s term of office with GSOC was due to last until 11 December 2020.  Under the provisions of the Garda Síochána Act 2005 a person appointed to replace a member of the Commission holds office for the remainder of the term of the person being replaced.  Therefore, Mr. Sullivan’s term of office will expire in December 2020.


I would like to take this opportunity, a Cheann Comhairle, to acknowledge the contribution that Mr. Toland made as Commissioner in GSOC during his time there. Mr. Toland brought with him over thirty years’ experience gained with the United Kingdom Metropolitan Police Service. This extensive knowledge of policing served him well while sitting on the GSOC Commission. His policing expertise and experience in GSOC can only serve to benefit the Garda Síochána Inspectorate.


The Government nominated Mr. Sullivan at its meeting on 8 May. As I said this appointment arises from the resignation last October of Mr Mark Toland.  Following this, I informed the Government on 5 December of my decision to fill the vacancy by way of an open competition conducted by the Public Appointment Service (PAS). This preference was taken with a view to ensuring that the very best candidate would be identified from an international field of suitably qualified candidates.


A Cheann Comhairle, it is important that we recognise the contribution that the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission makes to policing in the State. GSOC has been operating now for over 10 years and has grown in stature during that time.  And with that, so has its reputation for independence and fairness grown.


This is in no small part due to the dedication and drive of the current Commission under its Chairperson, Ms. Justice Mary Ellen Ring and Commissioner Kieran FitzGerald.  Their vision for GSOC’s policing oversight reaches into the future, seeking to extend its remit and accordingly its size.  The dedication and commitment of its staff is unquestionable.


In the 10 years of its existence, GSOC’s role has been expanded somewhat by, for example, bringing complaints against the Garda Commissioner within its remit.  In addition, GSOC is now a designated body to whom members of the police service can make protected disclosures.


At the same time, significant changes have also been made to legislation governing the Gardaí.  In particular, the establishment of the Policing Authority has created a public forum where the Garda Commissioner can be asked about matters related to policing services.


These are welcome developments.  There is no one who would suggest that a service such as the Garda Síochána, which can invoke quite extensive powers, should not be fully and openly accountable for how it uses these powers.


The Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland is another example of the commitment this Government has undertaken to review the functioning of An Garda Síochána. In terms of its remit and purpose, the Commission has been tasked with reshaping the legislative landscape in which An Garda Síochána operates. The Commission members bring a wealth of experience and dedication to their task and they are undertaking an ambitious work programme with alacrity.  Their report, which will be of huge significance, is due in September.  This major publication should provide a framework for a modern, professional policing service which will protect and defend the community and be subject to appropriate and robust accountability.


The House will be aware that GSOC has recently made proposals to me for legislative changes to enable it to function more effectively and efficiently.  These are being considered at present by my officials, however, I am conscious that any changes to GSOC should align with the recommendations of the Commission on the Future of Policing.  GSOC has been engaging with the Commission and I will be taking care to ensure that there is appropriate alignment.


GSOC have also sought additional staffing resources and have submitted a business proposal to my Department.  My officials are liaising with GSOC to ensure that a clear business case can be put to the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.  The GSOC proposal contains a focus on medium and long term planning and demonstrates the commitment of the current Commission to ensuring GSOC is properly equipped now and into the future.  I can assure the House that I am supportive of the broad thrust of GSOC’s business case and supportive of the valuable work undertaken by the Commission.


I should also say that this Government and I have given a commitment to provide GSOC with the resources it needs to maintain the very highest standards of policing oversight. I would like to take this opportunity to restate that commitment. GSOC will be fully supported in its role, and will be given all the tools needed to continue to perform at the high levels that GSOC have continuously strived to maintain.


GSOC has a critical role to play in the architecture of policing in the State.  Its independence is the guarantee to the public that complaints against members of the Gardaí will be investigated, as the old phrase had it “without fear or favour”.  Indeed, I and my predecessors have made the point many times in this House that there will be no interference with GSOC investigations, despite occasional calls for some form of intervention.


I believe public confidence in GSOC will be bolstered further with Mr. Sullivan’s appointment.  Oversight in public administration is nothing new to him and the administration of law enforcement is also not unfamiliar territory to him.  That is what marked Mr. Sullivan out as the preferred choice to be a member of GSOC. It is the international nature of his knowledge and experience which can only serve to benefit GSOC in policing oversight matters.


It is my hope that the House will join me in welcoming Mr. Sullivan and wishing him success in his new role as Commissioner in GSOC.


I commend the motion to the House.