Committee to call meeting with chair of Garda body

The Oireachtas Justice Committee plans to question the chairperson-designate of the new Policing Authority in the coming weeks.

And the committee expects to give its response on legislative provisions governing the authority, contained in the Garda Siochána Bill 2014, to Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald before the Christmas break.

Committee chairman David Stanton said that he intended to hold a session with Josephine Feehily, the new authority chairperson, before the Dáil breaks on December 19. “She will have an engagement with us, I would expect, before Christmas,” he said. “If not, it would be very soon thereafter, prior to her appointment.”

Ms Feehily must go through a formal appointment process through the Oireachtas before officially taking the helm of the new independent authority.

Ms Feehily, the outgoing chairwoman of the Revenue Commissioners, is assisting the Department of Justice in the creation of a “shadow authority”. This involves the foundation of the body and its reporting structures with the garda commissioner.

As part of that process, Ms Feehily is involved in conducting a second round of interviews of candidates for the garda commissioner.

Mr Stanton said that the chairperson would be invited in to give an address to the committee and answer questions from members.

“She will give a speech, lay out her stall and expectations. Members will then ask her questions, flag issues and make comments and she will be given an opportunity to respond.”

He said he expected it to be the first in a number of engagements with the chairperson and the eight other members of the authority, who have yet to be appointed.

Ms Feehily, 58, announced last September she was retiring as Revenue chairwoman. The career 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.

Revenue conducts operations with gardaí and work with gardai in agencies including the Criminal Assets Bureau, the Joint Task Force on Drugs and Europol.

Mr Stanton said he anticipated the Justice Committee will have a similar role to the respective committee in Scotland, which conducts regular sessions with the Scottish Police Authority.

He said the committee had already done a lot of work, in relation to the bill.

The first section of the Garda Bill, published last month, covered the additional powers and responsibilities being given to the Garda Siochána Ombudsman Commission.

Mr Stanton said did not anticipate any further detailed work on the recent provisions in the bill, in relation to the authority, announced earlier this month.

“I have asked members to reflect on them and I hope this week to have a discussion and get their views,” said the FG Cork East TD. “Almost everything has been covered by us already and no one is jumping up and down about the new provisions.”

He said he didn’t expect a further report as such, rather a letter to the minister with whatever additional points needed to be made.

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