Make-up of panel to select Garda chief being kept under wraps

The composition of a powerful interview panel tasked with selecting the next garda commissioner is being kept largely under wraps.

The State body tasked with the recruitment process has declined to provide any details of who is sitting on the board or what department or agency they come from.

In a series of replies to the Irish Examiner, the Public Appointments Service (PAS) said it could not provide any information on the matter in order to protect the “independence and integrity” of the process.

However, separate queries to the Department of Justice and the Policing Authority disclosed that both agencies will each have a representative on the selection panel.

The interview panel will assess candidates through a number of interviews, presentations and role-play exercises and make a recommendation, along with details, to the Policing Authority.

It, in turn, will decide whether or not to put the name forward to the Government for a final decision.

At the time of the last competition, which was won by former commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan, the interview board included secretary general at the Department of Taoiseach, Martin Fraser, Policing Authority chair, Josephine Feehily, and former head of the Garda Inspectorate and current chair of the Policing Commission, Kathleen O’Toole.

When asked who would be sitting on the interview panel for the current competition, the PAS said that, while they could confirm that an expert panel would be established to assess applications, it was not in a position to provide further comment as the recruitment competition was underway.

Following a query to the Department of Justice, it said that the organising of the selection board was a matter for the PAS, but added that “one member of the board will be a nominee of the minister at the request of the PAS”.

It said in the interests of confidentiality, it was inappropriate to divulge the identity of that person.

The Policing Authority initially declined to comment saying it was a matter for the PAS, but subsequently said the PAS had “invited the authority to nominate persons” to participate in the selection panel and that this had been done.

But the authority said that the “final decision on the composition of the interview board rests with the PAS”.

When the Irish Examiner went back to the PAS for confirmation and to determine what other agencies or walks of life (such as external experts) would also be represented on the board, the service said it was “a matter of policy” not to give such information.

It said this was to protect the independence and integrity of the merit-based selection process and to ensure a “level playing field for all concerned”.

It said a full report on the process would be published as soon as it was completed.

The deadline for applications for the job, which attracts a salary of up to €250,000, is April 19.

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