A Bureau to Remember

The GNBCI Engine Room: Pictured (l – r): Ms. Elaine Tonna-Barthet, EO, Central Admin. Dept; D/Chief Superintendent, Walter O’Sullivan; Ms. Anna O’Connor, HEO, Principal Administrative Officer, Central Admin Dept.

Editor John O’Keeffe paid a recent visit to the Garda National Bureau of Criminal Investigation in Dublin’s Harcourt Street and found a culture of professionalism in the wallpaper

The year? 1979. The boy? A 15-year-old, yours truly. The place? Harcourt Street to visit the legendry Inspector Dennis ‘Dinny’ Mullins – head of the Drugs Squad in Dublin, for a Transition Year project on narcotic use. How big was the drug problem in Dublin I asked him? “Huge,” he said. “Ah but how huge, I asked? “Huge is huge John,” he said wearily.
Undoubtedly, this most famous of gardaí could smell a precocious young eejit at 100 yards and that day, his nose was obviously spot on. It will come as no surprise to anyone when I advise them that Inspector Mullins had a stellar career – mine was somewhat slower to take off. It was with some nervy flashbacks, therefore, that I recently walked back into Harcourt Street for the first time in 40 years to meet the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation (NBCI).

Happy in their work: D/Superintendent Ken Keelin and D/Superintendent David Gallagher of the Criminal Investigation Department at GNBCI

I need not have worried. There to meet me was none other than D/Chief Superintendent Walter O’Sullivan. I’m not quite sure what the Head of as important a Bureau as the NBCI should look like, but I suspect Walter O’Sullivan is probably it. Everyone likes him – that’s right, I said everyone. Top to bottom. There is a reason for this. A consummate professional, with impeccable manners, he’s the type of man you just want to know. In fact, such was my enthusiasm, I think I may have overcooked it somewhat during my visits. Note to file – cool the jets next time – though I’ll make an exception for this piece.
The National Bureau of Criminal Investigation (NBCI) was established on January 21, 1997 under the control of Assistant Commissioner ‘C’ Branch and Garda Headquarters and D/Chief Superintendent, Seán Camon was placed in charge. Initially, the Bureau was formed as an effective and active response to the rise of serious and organised crime that was taking place at the time, which was becoming increasingly globalised with criminal elements not adhering to borders or restrictions of any kind. The formation of the Bureau involved the amalgamation of the old Central Detective Unit (CDU), which was the main investigative body at the time for An Garda Síochána.

On top of his game:
D/Superintendent Michael J. Mullen, Garda Extradition Section

Walter O’Sullivan is a treasure trove of detail. “The then remit of the NBCI was, Murder and Serious Crime, Domestic Violence and Serious Sexual Assaults, Anti-Racketeering, Arts and Antiques subject of larceny, Stolen Motor Vehicles and Theft of Computer Components,” he advises. “It held a resource complement of one Detective Chef Superintendent, four Detective Superintendents, four Detective Inspectors, 20 Detective Sergeants, 65 Detective Gardaí, one Detective Sergeant and one Detective Garda in Administration and eight clerical assistants,” he said.

The modern incarnation of the Garda National Bureau of Criminal Investigation (GNBCI) as is currently configured, was established in March 2015, under the Commissionership of Nóirín O’ Sullivan. This saw the establishment of the Garda National Protective Services Bureau that took over responsibility for sexual crime investigation. The Organised Crime Investigation Department was transferred out to the Garda National Drugs Unit to form the newly established Garda National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau. It made for good operational sense and sound reasoning that organised crime and drugs should operate out of the same Bureau, in that the two elements are inherently linked in crime.

Keeping guard: Garda Eve Rochfort, Kevin Street, at Harcourt Street HQ

There is of course someone even more important than Walter O’Sullivan. The Garda National Bureau of Criminal Investigation Bureau (GNBCI) is one of six Bureaus which operate under the command of Assistant Commissioner John O’Driscoll, Special Crime Operations. The current professional remit of the Garda National Bureau of Criminal Investigation is charged at a national and international level to conduct criminal investigations, support investigations in the Divisions, review investigations and examine issues in relation to investigations. The Bureau also plays a role in the training of crime investigators.
The mission of the Bureau is described as enhancing safety and protecting the trust of the people of Ireland by enforcing the law with integrity and professionalism.

Okay so it is a big bureau. O’Sullivan was quick, however, to advise me that there are many Units within the Bureau that ensure its work runs smoothly. The NBCI operates a number of offices and sections that carry a criminal investigation remit.

The first people I came across were those in the Criminal Investigation Department. This department is concerned at a national and international level with the investigation of a range of major crime types committed within and outside the jurisdiction. The CID Departments are superintended by both D/Superintendent Ken Keelan and D/Superintendent David Gallagher. I was curious as to how they both got on at the top plinth? They didn’t have to answer me – as we took some photos, it soon became clear that, like so many others in the Bureau, here were two men who clearly have a professional relationship second to none.

GNBCI Top Table:
Pictured (l – r): D/Superintendent Ken Keelin; D/Chief Superintendent, Walter O’Sullivan; D/Superintendent Michael J. Mullen; D/Superintendent David Gallagher

And such is their remit, they would need to. The offices within their Department include, Intellectual Property and Counterfeit Investigation (that works very closely with the Food Safety Authority of Ireland), Health Products Regulatory Authority (counterfeit medicines) and Irish Customs and Revenue Commissioners. Other offices in the Criminal Investigation Department includes the Stolen Arts and Antiques Unit, Environmental/Waste Crime Investigation Unit.

The Unit, however, in NBCI that has to surely get the winner’s rosette for the best title is the Garda Extradition Section, Stolen Motor Vehicle Investigation Unit and the Operational Support and Criminal Intelligence Office – all headed up D/Superintendent Michael J. Mullen. There are a few more medals to be given out here. Mullen has possibly the tidiest office I have ever come across in the Force. He is also hugely engaging on the work covered by his Unit – and it is vast.

The Garda Extradition Section is concerned with the surrender of fugitives (wanted on warrant) from the member States of the European Union and other sovereign States, for trial and punishment in the criminal courts of justice. Brexit, which is being closely watched, is a concern for the Garda Extradition Section in that if the United Kingdom leave the European Union without a deal, then the life of the European Arrest Warrant will expire and that will create some operational and legal difficulties for the future in the surrender of fugitives after January 31 2020 between the two jurisdictions. The Stolen Motor Vehicle Investigation Unit is concerned with the organised theft of automobiles for parts and transportation, farm and plant machinery, the apprehension of high-risk offenders and engagement with motor car theft suppression strategy. The office works very closely with its European and international partners in the investigation of this type of crime. You can see why Michael Mullen would need a tidy desk.

This magazine had the pleasure of covering the Serious Crime Review Team – colloquially known as the Cold Case Unit – in last month’s issue. It also comes under Walter O’Sullivan’s ambit and is concerned with the review of unresolved historical and current major crime incidents. Its primary aim is to assist the appointed Senior Investigating Officers (SIO) in identifying new investigative opportunities in cases. The team’s adopted motto is, “to the living we owe respect; to the dead we owe the truth.” Having spent a considerable period of time with its head, D/Superintendent Des McTiernan, I can confirm that this motto is a living and breathing mantra in his Unit.

The Bureau – and indeed all the sections and Units within it – are only of course as good as the administrative support they receive. One group of people who perhaps do not always get the praise they deserve are these unsung heroes of Garda staff members. O’Sullivan cannot heap enough praise on them. “The Central Administration Office are the power engine that drives the wheels of administration forward,” he advises me. “The Office is made up entirely of Garda Staff members since 2017,” he continues, “and is headed up by the Principal Administration Officer, Ms. Anna O’ Connor, HEO, who is supported by a number of executive officer and clerical officer staff.” Probably uniquely at this juncture, he says, in An Garda Síochána, “no operational member in GNBCI, is involved in administration duties.”

O’Sullivan and all his colleagues in the Bureau are professional to their finger-tips. Part of this skill is that they are so very personable – it was therefore no surprise that I would not be let leave without a personal anecdote from its Chief. “One matter of historical note is that a father and son had the distinction of commanding the Bureau. D/Chief Superintendent John O’ Driscoll (member from Cork), who commanded the Central Detective Unit from September 1979 to October 1982, and D/Chief Superintendent John O’ Driscoll (Dublin), who currently holds command of Special Crime Operations, commanded the GNBCI from September 2015 to August 2016.” It’s in the blood.

The GNBCI has got buckets of history and then some. The memory, for example, of Inspector Dinny Mullins and all his colleagues from bygone days are still held dearly by all Harcourt Street’s current incumbents. Walter O’Sullivan, and all his team, are another noble legacy to such great, early forerunners of Garda Specialist Units.

As Dinny Mullins himself might have said – they are huge.


For full and in-depth coverage, see the current printed edition of Garda Review.

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