Selection of Policing Authority chair not ‘opaque’

Minister for Justice insists Government appointment process transparent

Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald has denied that the Government’s selection of the chair designate of the new Policing Authority followed a non-transparent process. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times.

Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald has denied that the Government’s selection of the chair designate of the new Policing Authority followed a non-transparent process. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times.

 

Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald has denied that the Government’s selection of the chair designate of the new Policing Authority did not follow a transparent process.

It was announced yesterday that Josephine Feehily, the outgoing chair of the Revenue Commissioners, would head up the new authority, which is being created to provide a further layer of public accountability to the administration of policing services and act as a buffer between politics and policing.

The Irish Council for Civil Liberties director Mark Kelly said he was disappointed with the process followed by the Government as it came via “a radically different system of appointment” to what will be used to select the other members of the authority.

He said candidates for those roles would be processed by the Public Appointments Service “who will appoint an expert board and the legislation specifies what that should look like” but that this was “being totally bypassed for the chairperson”.

“It’s a question of having those competencies shown through an independent merit based process,” Mr Kelly said. “What that does is it strengthens the person who is appointed and it strengthens the authority…It is not the most auspicious start.”

The appointment continued “a tradition of direct ministerial appointment to a position such as this when what we have been promised is a new start and an independent policing authority”, he said.

Mr Kelly said he did not have a “personal issue” with the selection of Ms Feehily but that the process needed to be done “in a way that is transparent and independent”.

Speaking to reporters ahead of a Victims’ Rights Alliance conference in Dublin today, Ms Fitzgerald denied that the appointment had not been transparent.

“It is not opaque,” she said. “The Public Appointments Service asked for nominations, there was a number of nominations came forward to me as Minister for Justice and on the basis of an examination of qualifications I and the Government decided that we were doing our job in the best possible way by nominating a relevantly experienced, independent person and I don’t think there is anybody who doubts her independence.”

She said Ms Feehily’s nomination would have to go to the Oireachtas Justice Committee and be agreed on by the Dáil and Seanad which meant “there will be a lot of opportunity for discussion on it”.

“I believe it is the responsibility of Government to appoint the very best person, and I believe we have done that…,” she said.

The Minister said it was “very important to have a chair who can begin to lay the foundations - the correct foundations, the management structure, the administration, the technology that is needed for this new policing authority to do its job effectively”.

Asked about Ms Feehily’s experience in the area of policing, Ms Fitzgerald replied that she was “not going into those details”.

“They will be fully examined but let me make this point - Revenue has quite a lot of powers and investigations in relation to all sorts of issues to do with the justice system in the broader sense.”

Ms Feehily’s new role will see her take control of establishing the Policing Authority, which is still at a fledgling stage and will not be fully operational for some months. The heads of the Bill providing for the new authority were published last week.

She will complete her term as Revenue Commissioners chairwoman in January. She has held the post since 2008.

She is a previous commissioner in the Revenue Commissioners and also a former assistant secretary with the body.