Revenue boss Josephine Feehily has been nominated by the Government as the chair of the independent Policing Authority.
The 58-year-old will have a key role in the final rounds of the recruitment process of the Garda Commissioner, set to be made early next month.
The Irish Council for Civil Liberties expressed its “surprise and regret” that the Government had chosen to “short circuit” best practice on public appointments by directly nominating the senior public servant.
Fianna Fáil justice spokesman Niall Collins welcomed her appointment, saying she brought a “large amount of administrative and leadership experience”.
Ms Feehily said last September that she was retiring as Revenue chairwoman. The civil servant has 41 years’ experience, joining Revenue in 1993. She has been a commissioner for 16 years and chair for six years.
As well as experience in tax and financial investigations, the Limerick woman supervised the Customs Service. Customs conducts investigations, often undercover, into cigarette smuggling, fuel laundering, and drugs importation, each involving organised crime.
Revenue conducts operations with gardaí and works with them in agencies such as the Criminal Assets Bureau, the Joint Task Force on Drugs and Europol.
In addition to the ICCL, the appointment process has been criticised by legal expert Dermot Walsh and the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors.
“The new Policing Authority must not only be, but be seen to be, wholly independent and impartial,” said ICCL director Mark Kelly yesterday.
“This requires that its members and chair be appointed through a completely independent recruitment process, during which experts rigorously test the merits of candidates.”
He welcomed indications that the appointment would be subject to a statutory process once the Policing Authority law is enacted.
The appointment process for the chair is different to the system used to appoint the head of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission, the Garda Commissioner, and Department of Justice secretary general.
Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald said Ms Feehily “will bring a wealth of experience and competencies” and was a woman of “unimpeachable integrity”.
Ms Feehily said: “The establishment of the Policing Authority is a most significant reform for the State. I am honoured by the confidence shown in me.”
The justice minister, the chief justice, the DPP, the attorney general, and the Policing Authority boss are now all women.
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