Josephine Feehily ‘public face’ of reform in Gardaí

The former Revenue boss, Josephine Feehily, will be the new "public face" of transparency, accountability and openness in the Garda Síochána following a period of damaging controversies for the force.

The Limerick woman has been chosen by Government as chairperson of the new Independent Policing Authority which will be operational early next year.

She recently retired as chair of the Revenue — a position she held since 2008 when she was appointed by the then finance minister, Brian Cowen. The first woman to hold that position, she made her mark by spearheading a number of campaigns and special investigations which dramatically increased tax takes.

At the end of 2011, she came under fire after Revenue sent letters to 115,000 pensioners telling them they were underpaying their tax. She later apologised at the Oireachtas Finance Committee saying: “We caused confusion and distress to some people, and I’m sincerely sorry for that.”

She is best known for her handling of the property tax for which Revenue took responsibility. Following criticism over a letter sent to homeowners seeking to know in advance how they intended to pay, she admitted that communications surrounding the introduction of the charge could have been handled better.

Ms Feehily, who is from Clarina, Co Limerick, previously worked in a range of positions in the Department of Social Welfare and the Pensions Board.

She had joined Revenue in 1993 as head of HR, and held a number of positions before becoming chair.

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald said Ms Feehily has had “stellar performances in other areas” and has “huge management experiences”.

Asked if the independent policing role could be fully independent given the appointment was made by the minister, she said: “I don’t think anybody would question the capability and the qualities of the person I have nominated.”

Fianna Fáil justice spokesperson Niall Collins said Ms Feehily will play a “central role in providing the necessary leadership and support to An Garda Síochána at a time of great change for the force”.

He said she will “bring a large amount of administrative and leadership experience to the position but the scale of the challenge facing the authority and the gardaí cannot be underestimated.”

The Irish Council for Civil Liberties said there will be an “independence deficit” as a result of the appointment being made by the Government.


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