Minister defends police authority appointments

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald has said the board members of the new Policing Authority were of the “highest calibre”, after claims they were political appointees.

The charge was made by the Irish Council for Civil Liberties which stressed it was not questioning the credentials of those appointed.

Announcing the formal establishment of the authority yesterday, Ms Fitzgerald said: “The quality of those who sought appointment to the authority reflects the central importance of policing in the lives of our citizens and the desire of people from all different backgrounds to contribute to its ongoing improvement.”

She added: “I am delighted that the membership of the authority reflects such a range of achievement, knowledge and experience.”

The eight members, with backgrounds in policing, academia, law, and state and professional bodies, join its chair Josephine Feehily.

“The council deplores the decision of the Government to make the initial and subsequent appointments to the authority without recourse to an open, transparent and competency-based process,” ICCL executive director Mark Kelly said.

“Although the council is not questioning the personal merits of the persons appointed, on this occasion the Public Appointments Service was used only as a fig leaf for their direct political appointment by the Government on the advice of the Minister for Justice.”

He said from these “inauspicious beginnings”, the authority had a “steep hill to climb” to establish its genuine independence from Government.

The board includes former deputy chief constable of the PSNI, Judith Gillespie, law lecturer Vicky Conway, and barrister and former executive in both the Courts Service and the Legal Aid Board, Moling Ryan.

Other members include Noel Brett, former head of the Road Safety Authority; Bob Collins, former chief in the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland; Patrick Costello, chief executive at Chartered Accountants Ireland; management consultant Valerie Judge, and Maureen Lynott, former chair of the State Top Level Advisory Committee.

Ms Fitzgerald said among the authority’s first tasks will be the approval of an overall Garda strategy.


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