Frances Fitzgerald: We did our job over police authority

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald has firmly rejected criticisms of the process used by the Government to appoint Revenue boss Josephine Feehily as the chairwoman of the new Policing Authority.

Ms Fitzgerald also said serious concerns of gardaí regarding the operation and usefulness of the informant intelligence system, as detailed in the Garda Inspectorate report, needed to be addressed “immediately”.

She was speaking at the launch of report on victims’ rights, which highlighted many of the same concerns regarding the treatment of victims as documented in the inspectorate’s research.

The minister hit out at criticisms at the appointment process for Policing Authority chair: “The Public Appointments Service asked for nominations. A number of nominations came forward to me.

“I and the Government decided that we were doing our job in the best possible way by nominating the most relevantly experienced independent person and I don’t think there’s any one who doubts her independence.”

She said the process still had to go through the Oireachtas justice committee, Dáil, and Seanad.

The Irish Council for Civil Liberties said the system for appointing the chair “must not only be, but be seen to be, wholly independent and impartial”.

Unlike the process to appoint the other members of the Policing Authority, the chair was assessed and selected by the Government.

The other board members will be examined and selected by an independent expert panel appointed by the Public Appointments Service. Its recommendations must be accepted by the Government.

In relation to damning findings in the inspectorate’s report regarding the operation of the informant intelligence system — Covert Human Intelligence Sources (CHIS) — the minister said it had to be urgently addressed.

“Of course it’s crucial, so many of the recommendations affect crucial areas,” she said.

“There are many recommendations that need to be dealt with immediately and I would consider that as one of them.”

The findings, detailed in yesterday’s Irish Examiner, said CHIS had “limited, if any credibility” with the majority of detectives and senior gardaí the inspectorate spoke to.

Maria McDonald of Victims’ Rights Alliance said the inspectorate’s report highlighted many of the same issues as their study did.

She said the alliance had “serious concerns” that a landmark EU Victims Directive would not be implemented on the ground before its deadline of December 2015.

Research they conducted found that 64% of 117 victims surveyed said they were not informed by gardaí about victim support services. This included 89% of rape and sexual assault victims.

About 63% said they accessed counselling, but almost half paid for it themselves.

Ms Fitzgerald said the Government would implement the directive “fully next year”.


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