State could offer salary of €300,000 to attract Garda chief

Government believes 65% increase in salary required for Nóirín O’Sullivan’s successor

Garda commissioner: Nóirín O’Sullivan will be entitled to a lump sum of almost €290,000 and a pension of €90,000. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Garda commissioner: Nóirín O’Sullivan will be entitled to a lump sum of almost €290,000 and a pension of €90,000. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

 

The Government believes the new Garda commissioner will need to be paid about €300,000, or 65 per cent more than the current salary, if strong international candidates are to be attracted to the post.

Government sources say an increase from the €180,000 earned by Nóirín O’Sullivan, who stepped down on Sunday, is on the table to attract external applicants, such as senior civil servants and international candidates.

While Independent Ministers and leading Opposition TDs have called for an external appointee who can drive reform of An Garda Síochána, some in Government are uneasy about an international candidate, as it would put a foreigner in charge of national security, and favour a senior civil servant instead.

Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan said on Monday that the appointment of a new commissioner provided an opportunity to broaden the search for a successor to Ms O’Sullivan and that the issue of pay would be examined if requested by the Policing Authority, which is handling the appointment.

€300,000 Met salary

The current salary of €180,613 compares with the €219,521 paid to the chief constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland. A package of €300,000 would put the Garda commissioner’s post on a par with the remuneration of the chief constable of London’s Metropolitan Police Service, Cressida Dick. But she commands 32,000 police officers, compared with 13,000 Garda members led by the commissioner.

The Policing Authority will choose the requirements for the position, select a candidate and then make a recommendation to the Government that can be refused only in exceptional circumstances. If the Government does refuse the recommendation it will have to explain why and ask the authority to nominate somebody else.

One senior civil servant seen as a possible candidate is Robert Watt, the secretary general of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. Mr Watt, who has overseen public-sector reform since his appointment, in 2011, is understood to be coming to the end of his term.

€90,000 pension

It has emerged that Mr Watt’s department and the Department of Justice were working last week to clarify Ms O’Sullivan’s severance package and pension, ahead of her surprise retirement at the weekend. She will be entitled to a lump sum of almost €290,000 and a pension of €90,000.

Minister for Communications Denis Naughten said he favours an external candidate but has full confidence in whatever decision the Policing Authority makes.

Minister of State Attending Government Finian McGrath, of the Independent Alliance, also said that an external appointee would be “best placed to drive reform within An Garda Síochána”.

The Fianna Fáil leader, Micheál Martin, said that the new commissioner “may well be somebody external to the An Garda Síochána” but that the appointment process should be carried out independently by the Policing Authority.