Policing body ‘disappointed’ at lack of powers regarding appointment of senior officers

Josephine Feehily: I suppose it's fair to say we're disappointed.

The head of the Policing Authority has said she is “disappointed” at the Government’s continuing failure to hand over the power regarding the appointment of senior officers.

Josephine Feehily said the authority identified this as a key issue at its first meeting in January and has had “substantive engagement” with Department of Justice officials.

She told the Oireachtas justice committee that the authority was ready to host the appointments process.

Depending on the regulations transferring the powers to them, Ms Feehily said the authority wants to:

  • Open up appointments to people outside the service;
  • Enable officers to leap-frog up the chain of command, such as sergeants jumping over the rank of inspector for the position of superintendent.

Ms Feehily welcomed a forthcoming evaluation by the Garda Inspectorate into opening up recruitment at all levels of the service.

She said she is “keen” that people “apply from a number of levels”, as in other police forces.

Ms Feehily told the committee this is one way of “changing the culture” of An Garda Síochána, which, she said, had been called for in so many reports and tribunals.

Questioned by Independent TD Clare Daly about appointments, Ms Feehily said: “I suppose it’s fair to say we’re disappointed. That will not be a surprise to the department, the Tánaiste, or the commissioner.”

She said that at the authority’s “very first meeting”, they identified the appointments issue and wrote to the department and have had substantive engagement with officials.

Ms Feehily did point out that, at the same time, the Garda commissioner was highlighting that her senior team was “seriously diminished” through retirements and other factors.

Under the Policing Act 2015, the authority has the power, once regulations are commenced, to appoint assistant commissioners, chief superintendents, and superintendents.

She said the latest she had heard was that the appointments regulations were due to be signed by the end of the year.

In response to Fianna Fáil justice spokesman Jim O’Callaghan, Ms Feehily said that its “ambition” is to open up recruitment down the chain of command, below the ranks of deputy commissioner and commissioner, where it is open.

“We would like to bring it down to the next level,” she said, adding that the authority will be constrained by the regulations signed off on by Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald.

She welcomed an evaluation being conducted by the Garda Inspectorate into opening up recruitment at all levels in the service and that the authority will make a submission to that.

In addition to these reforms, she said the authority is also “keen” to allow people apply for positions for a number of levels.

She said this includes an ambitious junior garda being able to apply for inspector without having to be promoted to sergeant first.

Fine Gael’s Colm Brophy said there is a serious risk in allowing people to “jump quantum levels”, that it could undermine the service’s command structure.

Ms Feehily said so many reports have called for a change in the culture in the gardaí and that “one way of influencing the culture is letting in some fresh thinking”.


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