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New Garda Commissioner could come from abroad and be paid more

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan said that he accepted the role is challenging, but denied it is a “poisoned chalice”.

Image: RollingNews.ie

THE NEW GARDA Commissioner could come from outside Ireland – and could be paid in excess of €180,000.

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan told journalists yesterday that he had discussed the task of finding a successor to Nóirín O’Sullivan with the chair of the Policing Authority Josephine Feehily.

O’Sullivan took many in government by surprise on Sunday evening when she announced her retirement. Her replacement will become the third Garda Commissioner since March 2014. Flanagan said that he feels the appointment creates an opportunity.

I believe it is an opportunity to, perhaps, broaden the base. [We will ultimately] appoint an expert who is best placed to complete the root and branch programme of modernisation in An Garda Síochána.

Flanagan went on to say that the previous pay of €180,000 is something that may be discussed.

“It’s important that we look at who is available. Obviously, the process is just beginning – the Policing Authority will discuss it with the Public Appointments Service (PAS).

“I’m pleased that over the course of the next few weeks, the Policing Authority will advertise for the job in order to find the best person available. That may involve an international selection process, it may not.”

Flanagan said that he accepted the role is challenging, but denied it is a “poisoned chalice”.

The process

garda 806_90522872 File photo. Source: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie

A spokesperson for the Department of Justice says that the appointment of the new Commissioner will follow section 9 of the Garda Síochána Act 2005 (as amended by section 8 of the Garda Síochána (Policing Authority and Miscellaneous Provisions) Act.

This section of the act provides that the Policing Authority will make a recommendation to government on who will fill the role. There is no mention of how the competition for the job is to be run or how long it is to take. A request for comment from An Garda Síochána relating to the particulars of the job competition was directed to the Policing Authority. In a statement, the authority said:

“The Policing Authority has immediately commenced consideration and research on the process to identify and appoint the next Commissioner of the Garda Síochána. While section 9 of the Garda Síocháná Act 2005 sets out the statutory requirements, this will be the first time that the new legislative process is utilised.

“In practical terms, the Authority will be working with the Public Appointments Service and the Department of Justice and Equality over the coming weeks to agree the precise requirements for the role and to formally initiate the selection competition.

“The Authority’s Chairperson spoke to the Minister for Justice and Equality about the selection process this morning and they agreed that it is crucial that a deliberate and considered process takes place to ensure the right
candidate is selected.”

For now, Dónall Ó Cualáin has been appointed interim Commissioner of An Garda Síochána.

In O’Sullivan’s case, she filled the interim role for eight months following the resignation of Martin Callinan in March 2014 before she was given the job.

She was the only candidate recommended by a special selection committee set up by the PAS. It followed interviews with a number of Irish and international candidates.

Looking abroad

However, speaking to reporters ahead of her address at the MacGill Summer School in Glenties, Donegal, this summer, Kathleen O’Toole, Chair of the Commission on the Future of Policing said that she was surprised at the lack of international interest in the job.

She sat on the body that appointed O’Sullivan to her position, and said she was somewhat taken aback at the lack of international applicants.

However, she now believes it is a “great opportunity” and “a very desirable position” for outsiders.

O’Toole said she didn’t believe the pay packet was an issue.

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“I have taken pay cuts on a number of occasions myself because I thought the work was so fascinating and I wanted to make a difference… certainly I have heard some say that it [Garda Commissioner's salary] doesn’t compare to other places, but the people who do this job, that is not usually what motivates them.”

In the 24 hours after O’Sullivan’s retirement, a number of calls were made for the next head of the force to come from outside An Garda Síochána.

Fine Gael spokesman on Justice in Seanad Éireann, Senator Martin Conway said:

“I believe that it is in the best interest of An Garda Síochána that the Policing Authority begin a process of headhunting an individual with a proven track record of implementing radical reform.

“This process can run in tandem with an open competition – the clear objective being to find the right candidate to drive radical reform and restore public confidence in the senior management of the force.”

Roscommon-Galway TD Michael Fitzmaurice said:

“What is needed now is a total change at the top in the organisation and a new administration in the force. The next Commissioner must come from outside as anyone appointed from inside would face the same problems as Noirin O’Sullivan. It is now time for someone suitably qualified who has never been associated with the Garda force or the system be appointed.”

With reporting from Christina Finn

Read: Minister says Nóirín O’Sullivan’s pension will reflect her ‘experience, expertise and rank’

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