Policing chief selection procedure under scrutiny

The procedure being used by the Government to appoint the head of the new independent policing authority is at odds with the systems used for equivalent bodies in Scotland and in the North.

As reported in yesterday’s Irish Examiner, candidates for chairperson of the Policing Authority will not be subject to a formal process of interviews and independent scrutiny by the Public Appointments Service.

The PAS will merely check if candidates — who must apply by next Friday — meet broad criteria before sending their application — a CV and covering letter — to the Government for consideration.

The system contrasts to the procedure to fill the position of Garda Commissioner and secretary general of the Department of Justice, which is operated by the PAS.

The process is also different to the system for the Scottish Police Authority and the Northern Ireland Policing Board.

A report published on Wednesday by the Oireachtas Justice Committee recommended the Irish authority be based on the Scottish model, with “independent members” rather than “political appointees”.

The committee also recommended an independent appointment system, conducted by the PAS, which would make a recommendation on the preferred candidate, which the minister for justice could only veto for exceptional reasons.

A 36-page document on the SPA chairperson application said the process involved: nA detailed application form, separate to a CV nInterviews by a selection panel of four experts nPresentation of evidence for each applicant and recommendation on preferred candidate to Secretary for Justice, who made the final decision.

In Northern Ireland, the chairperson and vice-chairperson are actually decided by the members of the board in a vote. Independent members of the board are chosen by the Justice Minister, but following a regulated, public appointment competition.

The Oireachtas Justice Committee suggested a system similar to that used in the appointment of the head of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission. The system is specified in legislation and necessitates a PAS process, with an expert selection panel. Their recommendation to the minister must be accepted, save in exceptional cases.

The Department of Justice said the minister was confident the system they were using was “open and transparent”. It said the early deadline was to ensure the candidate could assist in the setting up of the authority and could take part in the selection process for the garda commissioner.


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