Flanagan says salary for Garda commissioner may be increased

Minister for Justice denies a ‘deal’ was done over Nóirín O’Sullivan’s pension

Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan has said that the Policing Authority would advertise within weeks to find a candidate to replace outgoing Garda Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan. Video: Bryan O'Brien

 

The salary for the Garda commissioner may be increased in a bid to make the role more attractive to potential candidates from outside Ireland, Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan said on Monday.

Mr Flanagan was speaking in Dublin this morning after the sudden retirement of Nóirín O’Sullivan on Sunday. Ms O’Sullivan said the “unending cycle” of investigations and inquiries had made it difficult to “implement the deep cultural and structural reform necessary to modernise” An Garda Síochána.

Mr Flanagan said he had spoken to the chair of the Policing Authority Josephine Feehily today about the recruitment of the new commissioner.

The Minister said this process would be decided by the Authority and it will be up to them to decide whether it would conduct an international search.

“I believe it is an opportunity, upon the appointment of a new commissioner that perhaps we broaden the base, that we have a look at the labour market and that we ultimately lead to the appointment of an expert and somebody who is best placed in order to complete the root and branch programme of modernisation and change that is underway.”

Asked if a salary increase is warranted, Mr Flanagan said this would be something the Authority would discuss with the Public Appointments Service.

The Minister confirmed the process would take a number of months.

Earlier Mr Flanagan said the departure of Ms O’Sullivan from her post had been was “flagged” in the weeks before she stepped down.

Mr Flanagan said he had not prevailed on Ms O’Sullivan to stay in the job and had not spoken to her since before she went on a five-week summer break in July.

Informed

He said he was informed of her resignation an hour before it was publicly announced. Neither Mr Flanagan or Taoiseach Leo Varadkar spoke to Ms O’Sullivan directly on Sunday before she announced her decision to retire.

The announcement came three days after the release of a damning report into Garda over reporting of breathalyser tests.

Deputy Commissioner Dónall Ó Cualáin has been appointed as Acting Commissioner pending a full recruitment process by the Policing Authority.

Ms O’Sullivan resigns with a €300,000 lump sum payment and a pension of €90,000 a year.

This morning Mr Flanagan denied a “deal” had been done with the commissioner so she could resign on a full pension.

“The pension arrangements are entirely in line with guidelines, rules and regulations from the Department of Public Expenditure,” he told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.

“She spent 35 years in An Garda Síochána and reached the highest position. Her pension will reflect that and no more.”

Mr Flanagan said he “was not surprised” when Ms O’Sullivan tendered her resignation on Sunday.

Flagged

“The possibility that Commissioner O’Sullivan might retire was flagged to me over the last couple of weeks.

“Of course it was treated as confidential until such time as the Commissioner made her final decision which was communicated to me at approximately five o’clock yesterday.”

Asked when he first thought she may step down, Mr Flanagan said there were discussions between Ms O’Sullivan and officials in the Department of Justice while she was on her summer break.

He said the Commissioner had used her five-week break to consider her future in An Garda Síochána.

Asked why he did not seek Ms O’Sullivan’s resignation earlier in the wake of several Garda scandals, the minister replied “she was Garda commissioner; she was engaged in the process of reform”.

“Obviously the Garda Commissioner took a decision that she felt the right thing to do was retire and of course I accepted that.”

Mr Flanagan indicated it was possible someone from outside the country could be appointed to the role.

This would have implications for the State security role of the commissioner with some observers believing the job would have to be split if a non-Irish person took the position.

Mr Flanagan said this would be a matter for the Policing Authority.