The Garda Commissioner has told the Oireachtas Justice Committee that An Garda Síochána is more open to internal and external dissent.

Nóirín O'Sullivan said she was not aware of, nor has she approved of, any efforts within the police service to subject whistleblowers to adverse repercussions.

She said the number of garda whistleblowers is in single figures and while she accepted that some have made a very valuable contribution to change, and while they must be listened to, they were not always right.

The commissioner said each individual’s experience is unique and while she was aware of the recent commentary on whistleblowers, she could not comment on individual cases.

She suggested the establishment of an outside body to receive complaints from garda whistleblowers and that the An Garda Síochána was retaining someone independently to review the current system.

She said the force will cooperate fully with Mr Justice Iarfhlaith O'Neill's inquiry and assist in any way it can, including handing over phones and any electronic equipment.

Commissioner O'Sullivan said there is, as part of the renewal and modernisation programme, a major focus on strengthening the governance of the organisation.

During her opening address to the committee, the commissioner said gardaí are determined that anyone who brings forward issues or concerns will be listened to and supported.

She said the force has introduced a Protected Disclosures Policy and appointed protected disclosures managers but said it also recognises the need for continuous improvement.

In the past week allegations have emerged in relation to the alleged mistreatment and maligning of garda whistleblowers and the Government has appointed a retired High Court judge to examine the allegations and report back within six weeks.

The two Independents4Change TDs on the committee have already said she should step down; Clare Daly and Mick Wallace have accused the commissioner of damaging An Garda Síochána.

Responding to a question today from Mr Wallace, Ms O'Sullivan rejected claims that she has promoted people who she knows or is related to around her, including her husband and bridesmaid.

She said she did not promote her bridesmaid - "because I didn't have a bridesmaid" - and that it was inappropriate that individuals would be defined by their associations with someone else, such as marriage.

She described the promotion process as fair, independent and impartial.

Ms O'Sullivan said she does not make appointments or promotions - the board makes them and the Policing Authority would also be involved in the future.

In relation to her own promotion, she said she was appointed by an independent process and was the first Garda Commissioner in the history of the State to be appointed that way.

Commissioner O'Sullivan also told the committee that gardaí have made significant progress in disrupting and tackling organised crime gangs.

She said that between March 2015 and September this year 167 people have been arrested and around €1.9m in cash, 35 guns and 1,000 rounds of ammunition have been seized along with drugs worth €36m.

The commissioner said that a key concern for many communities is burglary and Operation Thor, which was launched last November, has resulted in a 30% fall in burglaries in the first quarter of 2016 and over 25% the second quarter.

The Garda Commissioner said she is confident that there will be a reasonable resolution in the talks to avoid proposed Garda industrial action.

The Garda Representative Association has voted to take industrial action on 4, 11, 18 and 25 November following the rejection of pay proposals negotiated with the Department of Justice last week.

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Police Authority 'very welcome'

Commissioner O'Sullivan has welcomed the establishment of the Policing Authority. 

She said while it is relatively early in its inception, the Policing Authority's framework, oversight and accountability was "very welcome". 

In terms of oversight, she said the Authority is part of the future of An Garda Síochána.

She also noted that all members of the Policing Authority come with their own expertise and An Garda Síochána is "eager to learn from that". 

The commissioner was responding to questions from the Fine Gael Senator Martin Conway. 

Minister says whistleblowers will be protected

The Minister for Justice has said she wants to do everything possible to make sure that whistleblowers in the Garda know they are protected.

Frances Fitzgerald said that in order for this to happen the right policies need to be put in place and there needs to be a cultural change which, she added, would not happen overnight.

The Tánaiste said that gardaí have said they will cooperate with the judge appointed to review allegations made by two whistleblowers.

She said that she would take every initiative to make sure whistleblowers know that they are protected and if the judge makes further recommendations, she will follow up on those.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Ms Fitzgerald said she had full confidence in the Garda Commissioner.