Nóirín O’Sullivan to be questioned on Garda homicide data

Garda Commissioner and senior officers to appear at Policing Authority hearing

Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan and her senior team are today due to come under pressure about delays in setting out the nature and volume of errors in the State’s homicide figures.

The Central Statistics Office (CSO) has already suspended the publication of any further crime data until the errors in the Garda's recording of homicides were known.

And the Policing Authority told The Irish Times that despite requesting a report on the homicide statistics shortcomings two months ago, it was still waiting for it.

A team of senior officers led by Ms O’Sullivan is due to appear before the authority for 2½ hours in public session this afternoon.


The slow rate of progress in the Garda’s reform programme was expected to be the main issue for discussion, along with ongoing concerns about Garda data, including the homicide figures.

Less than a month on from the Islamic State stabbing attack in London involving one attacker who had married and lived in Ireland in recent years, Ms O'Sullivan and her team were set to answer questions about the Garda's preparedness for major incidents.

However, it is the homicide data and the rate of Garda reform that the senior officers will be most concerned about.


At a public session of the authority in late April, it emerged issues had been found with the way 41 homicide cases had been categorised and recorded between 2013 and 2015.

Some murders committed in a domestic setting were classified as non fatal offences against the persons.

However, material outlining that analysis was only submitted by the Garda to the authority the night before the April meeting, allowing no time for its review.

Since then, the Policing Authority has expressed concern about the information supplied to it.

The reason the homicide was review was undertaken by the Garda has not been explained, nor has the methodology used.

In minutes of a private meeting of the authority held after the April public session, concern is expressed at the “tone and accuracy” of the homicide material presented.

In that context, a formal report on the homicide data was requested from the Garda, which the Policing Authority has now said remains outstanding.

Away from the veracity of the homicide data, the implementation of the Garda’s modernisation and renewal programme is also on the authority’s agenda.

The programme is essentially a large document containing the main recommendations from the Garda Inspectorate reports published over much of the last decade. The principal report in that regard was Changing Policing in Ireland.

The ‘modernisation and renewal programme’ is the key document drawn up by Ms O’Sullivan and through which she says the Garda is undergoing significant reform.

However, in a recent update for Government, the Policing Authority has expressed concern about how the modernisation and renewal programme was being implemented.

While the Garda Inspectorate had identified 1,500 Garda posts to civilianised, initial results from a census of all Garda members identified only 161 posts where a civilian could replace a garda.

The authority said they was a “need for leadership” on the issue of civilisation.

It added while the Garda had identified a shortfall in HR expertise in the force, its concern had not been matched by action in filling new HR posts that had been sanctioned.

The authority added it was very difficult to get any sense of the overall pace of change within the Garda despite authority members engaging with gardaí across the State.

“Anecdotal evidence gleaned from those engagements would suggest that the (reform) programme is not well understood and the benefits of the change programme are yet to be felt ‘on the ground’,” the authority concluded.

Conor Lally

Conor Lally

Conor Lally is Security and Crime Editor of The Irish Times