Judge Rory MacCabe to succeed Ms Justice Mary Ellen Ring as Gsoc chair

Appointment comes amid opposition to new powers to investigate Garda members

The Government has nominated Judge Rory MacCabe to be the next chairperson of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (Gsoc), which investigates complaints made against Garda members.

Judge MacCabe, of the Circuit Court, has also been nominated to the High Court as part of his appointment process to chair Gsoc.

Having worked as a civil servant during the first phase of his working life, Judge MacCabe was called to the Bar in 1984 before being admitted to the Inner Bar in 1999. He was appointed to the Circuit Court in 2007.

In his new position, Judge MacCabe will be chair of the three-person commission at the top of Gsoc, alongside former ombudsman for children Emily Logan and former PSNI senior officer Hugh Hume, both of whom were appointed earlier this year.


Six years

Judge MacCabe succeeds Ms Justice Mary Ellen Ring, whose term as Gsoc chair was due to expire this weekend after she spent more than six years in the post. Ms Justice Ring will now return to the High Court.

The Cabinet on Tuesday approved the nomination of Judge MacCabe to the chair of Gsoc and for appointment to the High Court. Minister for Justice Helen McEntee TD (FG) said the nomination of Judge MacCabe, which must be ratified by the Oireachtas, followed an assessment process by a selection committee established by the Chief Justice to "identify suitable candidates".

“I am delighted to be able to nominate a person of Judge MacCabe’s experience and calibre to this important body,” she said, adding he was being nominated to the High Court to reflect the “significance” of the role of chair of Gsoc.

She thanked Ms Justice Ring for providing “strong and effective leadership” to Gsoc which had “ensured its reputation as an independent, impartial investigator of complaints against members of An Garda Síochána, has been enhanced”.

Reform plans

Gsoc has investigated complaints made by the public against Garda members, up to and including serious criminal allegations, since 2007. Under new reform plans to overhaul Garda oversight, Gsoc was due to merge with the Policing Authority into a new agency.

However, the legislation that will provide for those changes – the Policing, Security and Community Safety Bill – has been strongly criticised by a range of figures in policing and oversight. Garda Commissioner Drew Harris said he believed the new stronger powers to be created under the Bill for the investigation of Garda members were so strong as to be "unconstitutional".

In an interview with The Irish Times, as her term as chair of Gsoc comes to an end, Ms Justice Ring disagreed with Mr Harris’s assessment.

She was “surprised” by the claims of unconstitutionality, saying the new Bill brought Gsoc’s powers into line with other bodies, including the Garda and Revenue.

Conor Lally

Conor Lally

Conor Lally is Security and Crime Editor of The Irish Times