Policing Authority will be independent, new chief pledges

Policing Authority chief Josephine Feehily has pledged to exercise the independence of the agency to the “fullest extent” permitted under its legislation.

The former Revenue boss said the authority would take up the case of the resourcing of the Garda and would have a role regarding recruitment.

She said the demarcation between policing and security — which the authority will not cover — was “something to be tested”.

She was speaking at the publication of the Garda Síochána (Policing Authority) Bill 2015, which lays the foundation of how the agency will operate.

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At the launch, Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald described the establishment of the authority as “a sea change” in independent oversight of policing.

Ms Feehily moved to assure the public she was determined to flex the agency’s legislative strength.

“I’m happy that the bill gives the authority as much independence as it can do, in the context of the Constitutional parameters that are there. I think those of you who have met me before will know I am fairly independently minded myself, so you can take it I will be exercising that independence to the fullest extent that the bill allows.”

Under the bill:

  • The Garda Commissioner is accountable to it for policing matters, except security of the State, which remains under the remit of the justice minister;
  • The authority has control over recruitment and appointment of officers to the rank of superintendent, chief superintendent, and assistant commissioner;
  • It will nominate candidates for deputy commissioner and commissioner to the Government for decision;
  • It will have the main role in driving reforms in the force and devising, with the consent of the minister, various strategy plans.
  • It will draw up a code of ethics for the force in the first year.

“We have a very significant role in the recruitment and appointment of senior officers,” Ms Feehily said.

She described the overall role of the authority as a “critical friend” of the Garda Síochána.

“So, you are critical in terms of their performance, but you are also a friend in pointing out where they need support.”

And she added: “We will certainly be entitled to take a view about their resourcing and I think that might help [garda morale].”

She said she had visited the Northern Ireland Policing Board and the Scottish Police Authority, who both had about 60 staff.

“I’m not expecting we will need anything like that; maybe half of that and work up to it over the next year or so.”

She said advertisements for the eight board members would go out in June and she hoped to have her first meeting in September.

Ms Fitzgerald stressed that a balance had to be struck between the authority’s powers and retaining power within the government, particularly over security.

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Wesley O’ Regan is the General Manager of Popscene in Voodoo Rooms, Cork city. Popscene opened last November and is Cork’s only themed bar that is dedicated to celebrating the best of the 80s and 90s. https://www.facebook.com/PopsceneCork/You've Been Served: Wesley O'Regan, Popscene

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