Garda’s High Court action could halt 400 promotions to sergeant

Garda claims candidates with lower interview scores were selected over him

Gardaí at a passing out ceremony in Garda College Templemore. Photograph: Eamonn Farrell/RollingNews.ie

Gardaí at a passing out ceremony in Garda College Templemore. Photograph: Eamonn Farrell/RollingNews.ie

 

The High Court is being asked to grant an injunction to a Garda member that would delay, and potentially stop, the promotion of over 400 gardaí to sergeant rank amid allegations the promotions system is not based on merit.

The garda in question, a married man with children and a long record in the force, says he did not progress through the first round of the promotions competition despite achieving a higher score than other candidates who did get through.

Success in the opening round is based exclusively on scores allocated by interview panels to each candidate based on their competencies.

The garda at the centre of the case is questioning the fairness and transparency of a process that rejects applicants with higher scores than some of those who progress. He also alleges he was asked an “inappropriate question” during a promotions interview, though this is a secondary objection.

The garda in question works in the legal department in Garda Headquarters, Phoenix Park, Dublin.

The Irish Times understands when he was unsuccessful in his application in the spring he soon realised other applicants had not scored as highly as him, yet they progressed through to the next round.

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris has ensured Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan and the Policing Authority have been kept briefed.

Garda Headquarters said the competition for the 410 promotions to sergeant involved 1,414 candidates

The garda has appealed his unsuccessful application to be promoted to sergeant rank. He is now seeking a High Court injunction that would prevent the promotions from taking place until after his appeal was fully exhausted.

Scrapped

Legal sources said it was possible that if he won his case the competition that has resulted in 410 candidates winning promotion to sergeant could be scrapped and a new process commenced. However, the same sources stressed while that was possible, it was unclear whether it was likely.

In reply to queries, Garda Headquarters said the competition for the 410 promotions to sergeant involved 1,414 candidates.

“An Garda Síochána is aware of a potential legal action. We hope to be in a position to proceed with announcements and notifications with a minimum of delay,” the statement said.

The Department of Justice said the recently completed promotions competition had been conducted in accordance with the Garda promotions regulations.

It would still mean the best candidates in each region would get through, no matter how the scores compared from region to region

It added Mr Flanagan and Mr Harris were anxious the appointments were made immediately. There were 173 vacancies at sergeant rank.

The Gsoc staff member under investigation was responsible for carrying out an investigation into a garda who was involved in a road traffic incident involving a member of the public. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien
Sources familiar with the case suggested Garda promotions competitions were national processes rather than a collection of regional competitions with a quota of promotions allocated to each region. File photograph: Bryan O’Brien

The department believed the court challenge would not cause “significant delay” in appointing the successful candidates to sergeants posts around the country.

Interview panels

Informed sources said Garda Headquarters was likely to argue in the High Court that different interview panels around the country marked candidates “easier or harder” than other panels.

Because of that, the sources said, it was possible a candidate in one part of the country would progress through to the second round despite achieving a lower score than candidates in other parts of the country.

“It would still mean the best candidates in each region would get through, no matter how the scores compared from region to region,” said one source.

However, other sources familiar with the case suggested Garda promotions competitions were national processes rather than a collection of regional competitions with a quota of promotions allocated to each region.

The estimated 410 rank-and-file gardaí were due to be informed last Friday, a week ahead of the original schedule, that they had secured promotion to sergeant. However, the announcement has been stalled until after the hearing, scheduled for the High Court in Dublin tomorrow.

The delay comes at a time when the Garda force is increasing in size at an unprecedented rate and the shortage of supervision, especially at sergeant rank, has now reached crisis levels.