Selection of police authority chief criticised

Concerns mounted yesterday over the Government process to appoint the chairperson of the new independent Policing Authority.

Dermot Walsh, a leading legal expert, said it was clear the process did not involve “transparent and competitive interview” by an independent body and said it seemed “heavily oriented towards secrecy and government control”.

The Irish Council for Civil Liberties called for “greater clarity” on the appointment procedure and said the authority “must not only be, but be seen to be, entirely independent”.

The Oireachtas Justice Committee, which published its final report on garda oversight reform yesterday, said “membership of the authority should be the responsibility of the Public Appointments Service”, whose recommendation should be accepted by the justice minister, save in exceptional circumstances.

The Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors said the appointment should be conducted “completely independently” by an outside body and should not be “a Government appointment”.

The Government placed an advertisement on the PAS website on Wednesday seeking expressions of interest for a chairperson-designate of the authority.

Under an accelerated appointment process:

 - The deadline for expressions of interest is next Friday, October 17;

 - The appointments service will not assemble a selection panel or conduct interviews with candidates;

 - The service will not make recommendations to the minister;

 - Consideration of applications will be made by the Government.

A Department of Justice spokeswoman told the Irish Examiner: “The Government will carefully consider expressions of interest received by October 17 and will make its nomination of the chairperson designate of the policing authority shortly thereafter.”

She said the timeline was to ensure the chairperson was in place to contribute to the establishment of the authority and take part in the selection process of the new garda commissioner.

She said the minister was confident the process of appointment was “open and transparent”. She said the PAS will “assess” whether or not applications meet the criteria set out.

Prof Walsh of the University of Kent said he was disappointed “the appointment process seems heavily orientated towards secrecy and government control”.

“It seems clear the process is not based on a transparent and competitive interview conducted by an independent body incorporating relevant expertise,” said Prof Walsh. “The appointment seems to be within the exclusive patronage of the Government.

“None of this sits easily with the concept of an independent police authority. I would much prefer to see an independent, transparent and competitive process overseen by an appropriate Oireachtas committee.”

ICCL director Mark Kelly welcomed efforts to involve the chairperson in the commissioner’s selection, but said “greater clarity” was required regarding the chair’s own appointment to ensure it was open and transparent.

Justice Committee chairman David Stanton said: “Membership of the authority should be the responsibility of the PAS.

“We want to make sure no charge could be made against a member that you are a political appointee.”

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