Search is on for leader of new Policing Authority

Selected candidate to play key role in appointing new Garda Commissioner next year

Noirín O’Sullivan, interim Garda Commissioner. The new head of the Policing Authority will help choose the next commissioner. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

Noirín O’Sullivan, interim Garda Commissioner. The new head of the Policing Authority will help choose the next commissioner. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times


The recruitment contest that will yield the first leader of the new Policing Authority has begun, with the successful candidate set for a key role in selecting the next Garda Commissioner.

However, Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald will retain oversight of the security service within the Garda force. Concern had been expressed at opening sensitive information on State security to an outside body made up of civilians.

News that the chairperson-designate of the authority will help choose the next commissioner means the most senior Garda post in the State will not be filled on a permanent basis until next year.

The position is currently filled by interim Garda Commission Noirín O’Sullivan. She was second in command as the only deputy commissioner of the force when former Garda commissioner Martin Callinan retired amid mounting pressure over his handling of Garda whistleblowers and their concerns over the cancellation of penalty points last March.

Advertisements have now been placed seeking candidates for the post of chairperson-designate for what the Government has decided will be called the Policing Authority, rather than the anticipated garda authority title.

Justice sources said the preferred title reflected the fact the new body would deal with a wide range of agencies across the Justice family and not just the Garda force. The new body will act as a buffer between politics and policing.

The chairperson-designate will automatically become the first chairperson of the Policing Authority once it has begun operating, with applications for the post accepted up to next Friday, October 17th.

Sources said it would be “at the very least” one month before the post was filled. And it was only after the chairperson-designate was in place that the recruitment process to fill the vacant Garda commissioner’s job would take real shape.

The advertisement notice to choose the Policing Authority chairperson-designate says the authority would be running by the end of the year.

The role would “provide oversight of all aspects of the delivery of the policing service by the Garda Siochana, including oversight of strategy, the efficient and effective deployment of resources, organisation, administration, personnel and finance”.

The chairperson would also “provide advice to the Minister on policing” and the successful candidate would have “considerable leadership skills”.

The chairperson-designate would also have, or demonstrate the ability to quickly acquire knowledge or experience of board management and corporate governance; human rights and equality matters; policing matters and relevant legislation; and public sector administration and reform.

As well as managing the board of the new authority, the chairperson would also manage “key relationships” with the minister for justice of the day, the Garda commissioner, the Garda Inspectorate and Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission.

The successful candidate would “ensure a culture of continuous performance improvement” in the Garda as well as best practice on compliance with regulatory and reporting requirements.

The legislation that will provide for the new Policing Authority is currently being drawn up. Its passage from Bill to enactment will need to be very swift if the timetable of the authority commencing operations by year end is to be met.