Role of Garda commissioner to be advertised internationally

Fitzgerald says Garda Authority may have a role in appointment of new head for the force

 Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald who said today that  the establishment of the new authority was ‘reforming step’ that she hoped would happen before the end of the year. Photograph: The Irish Times

Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald who said today that the establishment of the new authority was ‘reforming step’ that she hoped would happen before the end of the year. Photograph: The Irish Times

Fri, Jun 20, 2014, 16:08

Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald has said the search for a new Garda Commissioner would stretch beyond Ireland and that the Garda Authority may have a role in the appointment.

The remarks represent the first time the Government has confirmed the job will be advertised internationally.

And the possible involvement of the Garda Authority is a strong indication that a new permanent commissioner may not be appointed until next year.

Former commissioner Martin Callinan made a surprise decision to retire two months ago in the face of mounting policing controversies and the force is currently being led by acting commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan.

At a consultative forum in Farmleigh, Phoenix Park, Dublin, today where policing and justice stakeholders are meeting to discuss the establishment of the Garda Authority, Ms Fitzgerald said the establishment of the new authority was “a huge step, a very reforming step” that she hoped would happen before the end of the year.

“It may be that members of the new authority would be appointed and there may be the possibility of them having an involvement to some degree in the appointment of the new garda commissioner.That remains to be worked out.

“It will be advertised in July,” Ms Fitzgerald said of the vacant garda commissioner’s post, which is being advertised openly for the first time.

“It’s obviously going to be internationally advertised and it will take some time.”

Given the length of time it will take to establish the Garda Authority and the fact it may have a role on appointing the next commissioner, Ms O’Sullivan’s current status may remain until next year.

There are no deputy commissioners currently, with both posts now vacant.

There are also vacancies at assistant commissioner and chief superintendent level and the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors has pointed to shortages in their own ranks.

Ms Fitzgerald said she accepted it was a “very challenging time” for justice and policing in the Republic.

“We’ve had some very disturbing reports, we’ve had the allegations by whistleblowers, we’ve had the Guerin report and the Cooke report. And there are further reports due in the coming weeks and months from the Garda Inspectorate. “There’s a lot of work to be done.

“But I do believe that we can achieve a goal, which is to have the best police service possible that will stand up to international scrutiny.”

She said while Alan Shatter gave his view on the Guerin report in the Dáil yesterday, when he rounded on its author Sean Guerin SC who he claimed had rushed to judgement without gathering all of the evidence, the Government’s view was that the report’s conclusions were “serious and disturbing”.

“It was a preliminary report but the Government decided on the basis of the material that was in the report that a commission of investigation should be established.”

She said everybody would have their say during that process.

Mr Guerin had clearly decided that in 11 out of the 12 cases examined, further investigation was required and she said the Government accepted that.

In response to criticisms by Chief Inspector Bob Olsen of the Garda Inspectorate that the Garda fleet has been so neglected it was now a “financial ticking bomb”, Ms Fitzgerald said there was still €4 million to be spent on the fleet this year.

She added while the strength of the Garda force had fallen slightly below 13,000 - a level former commissioner Callinan said should not be breached - Ms Fitzgerald said she was keen it would not go any lower.

When asked to express confidence in Department of Justice secretary general Brian Purcell, Ms Fitzgerald stopped short of doing so, saying she would await the outcome of a review currently underway within the department.