Leo Varadkar 'has confidence' in Garda chief Noirin O'Sullivan

Garda Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan Image copyright RTÉ
Image caption Garda Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan denied referral to the ombudsman was meant to keep allegations from the public gaze

Irish Prime Minister (Taoiseach) Leo Varadkar has told the Dail that he and his government have confidence in Garda Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan.

On Tuesday, Ms O'Sullivan said she had asked a watchdog to begin investigating alleged financial irregularities at the Irish police force's training facility.

She denied the decision to refer it to the Garda Siochana Ombudsman Commission was to keep it from the public.

Mr Varadkar was asked about the commissioner in the Dail on Wednesday.

Responding to a question from Sinn Féin's deputy leader, Mary Lou McDonald, the taoiseach said problems in the Garda preceded the commissioner taking over.

However, he added that public trust in the force had been strained and that he was not happy with the pace of reform.

Mr Varadkar said this needed to be accelerated to restore trust.

The decision to ask the Garda Ombudsman to launch a criminal investigation into the training facility at Templemore in County Tipperary follows the revelation that large sums of EU funding were put in a bank account in a former officer's name.

The parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has also been investigating the allegations.

Image copyright RTE
Image caption Irish police recruits receive their training at the college in Templemore

For several months, the PAC has been investigating how accounts at the training college, including one designed to cover laundry bills, were used for other purposes including paying restaurant and entertainment bills.

Commissioner O'Sullivan has, in the past, described what happened at Templemore and the evidence of poor financial controls there as a legacy issue.

The recent revelations about Templemore come at a difficult time for Ms O'Sullivan.

She has faced several opposition calls to stand down over a number of issues, including her handling of police whistle-blowers and the disclosure that police officers had significantly exaggerated the number of breathalyser tests carried out.

With a new taoiseach, Mr Varadkar, and a new justice minister, Charlie Flanagan, there has been considerable interest in political circles in Dublin about whether the new office holders will show the same support for Commissioner O'Sullivan that their predecessors and the previous cabinet did.

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