‘Garda appointments should be removed from politics’

The Government is rejecting calls for an overhaul in how senior gardaí are appointed after being warned it is "indefensible" that the 200 most senior officers are approved by cabinet.

Independent TD Shane Ross has tabled a Dáil motion to create an “open contest” which will ensure gardaí are “appointed on merit” rather than as a result of a political process.

Recent controversies surrounding the administration of justice show that appointments must be “removed totally and utterly from the political arena and given to a body outside which has got some respect”, he said.

Mr Ross was backed by fellow Independent TD, Mick Wallace, who said that although the Government plans to appoint a new Garda commissioner in July through open competition, “they have not made any commitment to change the legislation permanently in this regard.”

The Wexford TD said: “This is another short-term reaction to the recent series of Garda scandals rather than any meaningful and permanent reform.”

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald said that she opposed the proposal because reforms should not be brought forward in a “piecemeal” way and, instead, should be designed to fit “the new policing and oversight architecture”.

She said the independent Garda Authority will be in place by the end of this year. She said: “This is a very challenging timetable, but I am making it a top priority.”

While details of its functions are yet to be debated in the Dáil, she said “one of its more obvious potential roles will be to have an involvement on the process of appointment of the most senior members of the Garda Síochána”.

She said the position of Garda commissioner will be advertised in July.

Fianna Fáil justice spokesman Niall Collins said the bill does not make any sense, given that it would take away the most important power from the independent authority. He urged Ms Fitzgerald to “stagger the appointment” of the new commissioner until the independent policing board is set up.

Mr Collins criticised some TDs for “throwing the wet blanket over the entire force, that there is a cancer of cronyism”,

He said comments by Mr Ross that there was an “incestuous” system of appointments in the force “was not helpful”.

He said: “Some of the language in this debate is ill-tempered and isn’t warranted and isn’t justified. The message that some people are trying to send is that everyone who is promoted didn’t merit their promotion.” He said while it was important to hold gardaí to account, TDs should show support for members of the force.

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