In New Ross Garda commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan, who stepped down at midnight, was described as “an incredible role model for women in this country’’ by Minister for Employment and Social Protection Regina Doherty at the weekend.

“I have confidence in her and, not just because of her long sterling record of service to the country and An Garda Síochána, but because she wants the job,’’ she said.

She said Ms O’Sullivan had an incredible track record in her service to public life. “She is there a long time and she has the vision and the grit, which is needed,’’ she added.

The Minister was speaking during a political panel discussion at the Kennedy Summer School in New Ross, Co Wexford, on Saturday.

When it was pointed out to the Minister that Ms O’Sullivan had reportedly recently sought a European post at Europol, Ms Doherty said there was nothing wrong in being ambitious.

She said Ms O’Sullivan’s ambition was to change a force in which most normal Irish people had lost some of their grá and confidence.

Ms Doherty was responding to questions from session chair broadcaster and journalist Sarah McInerney on whether she had confidence in Ms O’Sullivan following the breath test controversy and the commissioner’s appearances before the Oireachtas justice committee.

Ms Doherty said the commissioner was under scrutiny all day, every day, not just from TDs, but the entire media and from half the force.

Ms O’Sullivan, the Minister added, deserved the opportunity to put her mark on the force and change the management style. This could not be done overnight, she added. The Minister was participating in a panel before a public audience in St Michael’s Theatre with former Labour leader Joan Burton, Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald and Fianna Fáil defence spokeswoman Lisa Chambers.