Recruitment of new Garda commissioner hits delay

Need for legislation to allow candidates up to age 60 to apply has pushed back process

The post of Garda commissioner has been vacant since the unexpected retirement of Nóirín O’Sullivan last September. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

The post of Garda commissioner has been vacant since the unexpected retirement of Nóirín O’Sullivan last September. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

 

The process of recruiting the next Garda commissioner has hit a delay with a slippage in the date for advertising the post. It was intended to advertise the position around now but this has been pushed back well into next month.

Many in the Garda believe the new commissioner will be appointed around the same time that a rumbling controversy around homicide misclassifications comes to a head in late summer or early autumn.

A major review of homicides between 2003 and 2017 has only just begun and is expected to be finalised around August or September.

While the Government had hoped to have the new commissioner in place before then, this will now not be the case.

The post has been vacant since the unexpected retirement of Nóirín O’Sullivan last September. Since then Deputy Commissioner Dónall Ó Cualáin has led the force on an acting basis.

While he was due to retire next month on age grounds, he has agreed to stay on as acting commissioner for as long as it takes to fill the job on a permanent basis.

Legislation

Under current rules, only candidates up to the age of 55 years can apply for the post. However, the Government has now been forced to introduce a piece of legislation ensuring the age limit is increased to 60 years to accommodate civilians who may want to apply.

The change brings the age limit for the post into line for other jobs in the public service. It ensures the same age limit applies for both internal and external candidates.

The new provision is contained in the Public Service Superannuation (Amendment) Bill 2018.

In reply to queries, Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan said the new legislation went to Cabinet last week and will be before the Oireachtas for the first time next week. He added that once enacted the new legislation would allow for the post to be advertised within “a matter of weeks”.

Last week it emerged that a review of homicides under way within the Garda would take five to six months to complete. With additional time likely needed to prepare a report to present to the Policing Authority, it is not expected to emerge until late August or September.

It means the controversy around the homicide misclassifications now dogging the force looks set to continue into the new commissioner’s tenure.

It has already been revealed that 89 road traffic deaths between 2003 and 2017 that should have been classified as homicides – death by dangerous driving – were classified as other offences, such as speeding or drink driving.

Classification issues were also identified over 41 domestic killings between 2013 and 2015 with 12 needing to be upgraded to homicides having been incorrectly recorded as, for example, non-fatal assaults.

Two Garda civilian staff members have made a protected disclosure to the Oireachtas Committee on Justice, claiming that not only were some homicides misclassified, they were also not investigated as homicides. The Garda has denied this and the review currently under way is expected to test the veracity of the allegations by the two civilians.