Government review of future of Garda to take ‘up to 18 months’

Commission asked to recommend on ways to deliver a modern police force for the State

The commission examining the future of An Garda Síochána will be expected to issue its final report within a year to 18 months, Government sources say. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill

The commission examining the future of An Garda Síochána will be expected to issue its final report within a year to 18 months, Government sources say. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill

 

The commission on the future of An Garda Síochána will be expected to issue its final report within a year to 18 months, according to Government sources.

Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald published the draft terms of reference for the commission following the Cabinet meeting yesterday.

It is also understood that there was criticism at Cabinet yesterday of public statements from the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI), which is holding its conference this week.

Ms Fitzgerald and Minister of State Finian McGrath were said by sources to be among those who expressed a view that the AGSI had still to fully register the scale of public concern over recent controversies.

The terms of reference are still subject to consultation with Opposition parties in the Dáil, but the draft outline of how it will proceed focus on a wide range of areas.

These include the structures and management required for a modern police force, the “appropriate composition, recruitment and training of personnel”, the culture and ethos of the organisation, as well as governance and oversight, among many other issues.

It was stressed that while it will not be a commission of inquiry, it would be similar to commissions on taxation that carried out work for the Department of Finance in the past, such as in 2009.

Sources said the so-called Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland will be modelled on the Patten inquiry which examined policing in Northern Ireland following the Belfast Agreement in 1998.

Further consultation

Ms Fitzgerald circulated the draft terms of reference to the Opposition spokespeople on justice she consulted last week, and will engage in further consultation. Final terms of reference are expected to be brought back to Cabinet shortly after Easter, she said.

“The draft terms of reference are intended to be comprehensive and provide for a thorough review of all aspects of policing in Ireland including the structures, leadership, management; composition, recruitment and training of personnel; the culture and ethos of policing,” she said.

Fianna Fáil justice spokesman Jim O’Callaghan said his party would carefully consider the proposals.

Separately, the Cabinet also authorised the Policing Authority to recruit three civilians for senior positions in An Garda Síochána.

These jobs, which were advertised last week, are director of legal compliance, chief information officer and executive director for strategy and transformation.

The Department of Justice says that, on the basis of the commission’s findings the Government would “bring forward to the Government proposals for future policing structures and arrangements”.

The draft terms of reference at Cabinet yesterday said the commission should address if there was “the most appropriate structures for delivering all aspects of policing”.

Splitting up

They raise the prospect, as had been flagged, of splitting up An Garda Síochána, possibly separating its policing arm from its national security responsibilities, although they are not directly specific.

The commission can examine whether a “unitary structure or otherwise” is adequate for the Garda.

The commission is also set to examine how members of the force are recruited and promoted, and whether there is the “appropriate composition, recruitment and training of personnel”.

It will also look at the mix between “sworn officers, unsworn personnel and the Garda reserve” and if the personnel reflect the diversity of Irish society. The culture and ethos of the force must be that of a modern police service. Governance and oversight will also be a focus, as well as “policing powers and procedures”.

These, like the law, should be “clearly established and publicly available”. Breaches of discipline must also be effectively addressed, according to the terms of reference.