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Tánaiste to discuss 'critical' garda vacancies with Garda Commissioner

Enda Kenny has said the independent Policing Authority will appoint senior gardaí early next year.

Garda Commissioner Noirin O Sullivan with the Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald.
Garda Commissioner Noirin O Sullivan with the Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald.
Image: RollingNews.ie/Photocall Ireland

OPPOSITION PARTIES HAVE had to walk a balanced line when calling out the government on vacancies in senior garda positions.

Pressure is mounting on the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald due to calls for the vacancies to be filled before the Policing Authority assumes responsibility for appointing senior garda roles.

However, there has been a reluctance in government to do so as the independent authority has been tasked with making appointments from early next year, removing the power from both the Garda Commissioner and Cabinet in giving promotions.

The controversy arose when it was reported that there are a significant number of senior level appointments left vacant.

It was reported this week by RTÉ some senior garda figures are set to take legal action against the government over their failure to fill the current vacancies.

Speaking on Today with Sean O’Rourke, Noel Cunningham of the AGS said there is now a “possibility” that gardaí who were promised promotions, but who have not yet been appointed to the roles, may have to re-apply for the jobs.

Today, Fitzgerald said she would be “examining” the vacancies and will be having discussions with the Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan, as well as consultations with the Policing Authority.

The minister conceded there are eight positions at the top levels.

“Of course I will be examing those critical vacancies and making a decision in relation to them,” she told reporters.

“We’ve always agreed that critical vacancies need to be filled,” said Fitzgerald, stating the Policing Authority also held this view.

She denied there was reluctance to fill critical vacancies stating that she couldn’t be accused of not wanting to move ahead with them.

Job vacancies

Cunningham said a number of positions, identified by the Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan, were advertised at the end of last year.

In the middle of the year a list of names were drawn up for approval – and since then some members on the list have been promoted, while others have not.

From 31st December, the Policing Authority will assume responsibility for all senior garda roles. Currently, the government is responsible for the filling of senior appointments.

While Cunningham would not go so far as calling it a “crisis”, he said those identified as being suitable for the roles should be appointed as soon as possible.

Policing Authority 

Enda Kenny was pressed by Micheál Martin on the issue during Leaders’ Questions yesterday. Martin criticised the government’s delay in transferring the responsibility for these appointments to the Policing Authority, as well as its unwillingness to make fill further roles now.

He said that this delay meant that there was “paralysis and indecision” from the Government when it came to appointing senior gardaí.

“Why write out to eighteen people telling them they were successful but only appoint ten of them? That is the bottom line. There is one law. The 2005 Act is currently in situ in terms of promotions of superintendents and chief superintendents.

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“The Garda Síochána (Policing Authority and Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2015 is a new Act and one that we support. We support the idea that the authority would be responsible for promotion to the senior ranks of An Garda Síochána, but the section has not yet been commenced. Why has it not been commenced?” asked Martin.

The delay is also something frustrating the Chairperson of the Policing Authority, Josephine Feehily.

She told the Joint Committee on Justice and Equality she was “disappointed” about delays of changing the appointments process.

Martin pointed out that as it currently stands, it is the Taoiseach’s responsibility. Martin said for Kenny to “resile from his duty and responsibility” is wrong.

The responsibility to commence legislation resides with the Government. In the interim, the existing law of the land applies.

Kenny responded by calling the transfer of these responsibilities to the Policing Authority “the major significant change” to policing since the foundation of the State.

He added that the Government had filled 38 senior roles within the Gardaí so far this year, with only three remaining unfilled.

This figure of three unfilled vacancies was mentioned by Minister of State at the Department of Justice and Equality, David Stanton, in the Dáil yesterday in response to a question from Fiánna Fáil’s Jim O’Callaghan.

Labour and Sinn Féin have also called for the vacancies to be filled.

Read: As it happened: ”You’re both incompetent and unfit to be in Government” – Enda faces tough questions in the Dáil

Read: Public sector unions are not happy about garda pay increases

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