The Government could still be on collision course with top-ranking gardaí after the minister for justice reaffirmed her view the Policing Authority will fill any future vacancies within the force, even if it means dissolving a panel formed just six months ago.
Senior gardaí are understood to be considering taking legal action over the non-filling of high-level policing and security positions within the force, with claims there are 17 vacant posts at assistant commissioner, chief superintendent, and superintendent ranks.
The wrangle has developed because a panel, set up in May with a view to filling any vacancies, could now be dissolved as the Policing Authority is due to take on all responsibility for Garda promotions.
Minister of state David Stanton, speaking in the Dáíl on behalf of the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald, said “the intention is to transfer the appointment function to the authority shortly”.
He stated: “Once this is done it will be a matter for the authority to undertake its own selection competitions for appointments to these ranks.”
Ms Fitzgerald, yesterday, reiterated the role the Policing Authority will have once it assumes responsibility next month for filling vacant posts.
“For many years, people have said the promotion system within An Garda Síochána should take place outside of government and I agree with that,” she told reporters at the launch of an awareness campaign on domestic and sexual violence.
“It’s always understood that panels operate for a particular period and, if the process changes, then the panel is no longer applicable.”
That is unlikely to assuage the concerns of senior gardaí placed on the panel formed on May 25.
It is understood there is currently no assistant commissioner or chief superintendent appointed to the National Traffic Bureau, while three assistant commissioners are due to retire within the next six months and a vacancy exists at chief superintendent level in the Special Detective Unit.
Ms Fitzgerald said the Government had promoted 38 members of An Garda Síochána in the summer and it had always been the intention to switch that task to the independent Policing Authority.
“That’s the kind of situation that many in the country wanted to see.”
As for whether or not there are key roles currently unfilled within the force, she said: “In fact, the posts within An Garda Síochána have been filled up to the level of posts that have been approved by government.
“So any further changes will be part of broader government decisions in relation to recruitment in the public service.”
A spokesperson for the Department of Justice said a chief superintendent retired in September and this, together with the recent departure of an assistant commissioner to take up a post abroad, meant there were three vacancies.
“All applicants were informed by the commissioner, when they applied for the competitions to be appointed to the senior ranks, that the panels formed would lapse on the transfer of the appointment function to the authority.”
The spokesperson added the department was not aware of any legal action being taken in relation to the filling of posts in the senior ranks of An Garda Síochána.
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