Experienced civil servant is the new State security chief

A senior civil servant with lengthy experience in security and intelligence has been appointed as the country’s new national security chief.

Experienced civil servant is the new State security chief

A senior civil servant with lengthy experience in security and intelligence has been appointed as the country’s new national security chief.

Dermot Woods has 10 years’ experience in the Security and Northern Ireland Division of the Department of Justice.

He has been head of the section, as principal officer, for the last five years.

Mr Woods was chosen after a Public Appointments Service competition to fill the new position of director of the National Security Analysis Centre (NSAC).

He has been appointed to the rank of assistant secretary general in the Department of the Taoiseach.

Both his position and the NSAC unit are new, and the establishment and staffing of the office will be top of his agenda.

The new centre will also be positioned within the Department of the Taoiseach.

It will gather intelligence from operational agencies, co-ordinate their work, and provide analysis and advice to the Taoiseach and the Government.

Sources said Mr Woods has “represented Ireland in every relevant forum”, including the Northern Ireland ‘Fresh Start’ Agreement and the EU-backed Radicalisation Network.

He was also responsible for “day-to-day liaison” with security sections of the Gardaí and Defence Forces.

One civil service source said: “He has exceptional experience nationally and with international partners.”

A non-Government source said he had no issue with the experience of Mr Woods, but added: “He comes from a section of the Department of Justice long known for its culture of secrecy. We need a national security centre that is more open.”

The establishment of the centre and the intelligence co-ordinator were key recommendations of the Policing Commission report.

That report did describe the position as ‘National Security Co-ordinator’ and recommended the person report directly to the Taoiseach. However, Mr Woods will report directly to the secretary general of the Department of Taoiseach. He will be subject to strategic direction and oversight by the National Security Committee.

The job spec said applicants were not required to come from an intelligence, security, or law enforcement background, but were expected to have the “ability to quickly and effectively acquire” an understanding of threats to national security.

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