Search for new Garda Commissioner to go overseas but may be protracted

Interim Commissioner O’Sullivan says recent controversies a chance for reform

 Nóirín O Sullivan: said Garda had ‘adequate’ resources to meet its obligations.  Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Nóirín O Sullivan: said Garda had ‘adequate’ resources to meet its obligations. Photograph: Cyril Byrne


Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald has said the search for a new Garda commissioner would stretch beyond Ireland and the Garda Authority may have a role.

The remarks represent the first time the Government has confirmed the job will be advertised internationally. And the possible involvement of the Garda Authority is a strong indication a new permanent commissioner may not be appointed until next year.

Former commissioner Martin Callinan made a surprise decision to retire two months ago in the face of mounting policing controversies and the force is currently led by acting commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan.

‘Reforming step’

At a consultative forum in Farmleigh in Phoenix Park yesterday, where policing and justice stakeholders are meeting to discuss the establishment of the Garda Authority, Ms Fitzgerald said the establishment of the new authority was “a huge step, a very reforming step” that she hoped would happen before the year’s end.

“It may be that members of the new authority would be appointed and there may be the possibility of them having an involvement to some degree in the appointment of the new Garda commissioner. That remains to be worked out.

“It will be advertised in July,” Ms Fitzgerald said of the vacant Garda commissioner’s post. “It’s obviously going to be internationally advertised and it will take some time.”

Given the time it will take to establish the Garda Authority and the fact it may have a role on appointing the next commissioner, Ms O’Sullivan’s current status may remain until next year. There are no deputy commissioners currently, with both posts now vacant.

There are also vacancies at assistant commissioner and chief superintendent level and the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors has pointed to shortages in their own ranks.

At the same event, Ms O’Sullivan said while the Garda force had been hit by budget cuts, it still had “adequate” resources to meet its obligations. And she insisted some investments were being made. “This year alone we have bought 140 new cars which are augmenting the fleet.”

However, despite the reduced resources she believed the Garda was “policing very well”. “Yes, the numbers have fallen slightly under 13,000,” she said in reference to the total strength of the force and the number the former Garda commissioner said they should not fall below.

This week the head of the Garda Inspectorate, which reviews policing in the Republic and advises the Garda and Government on reforms, expressed the clear view that policing was struggling. Chief Inspector Bob Olson said the Garda did not have the resources to carry out its work.

Depleted fleet

The IT infrastructure enjoyed by police forces in other countries was not available to gardaí. Garda vehicles were being switched from urban to rural areas to get more mileage from old vehicles. It meant the fleet would all require upgrading at the same time and was a financial “time bomb”.

He previously said training had stopped and he was meeting detectives who never received any training on how to be a detective. On Thursday, the Public Accounts Committee was told parts of the penalty points system were on hold for years due to a lack of IT.