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It doesn't deal with complaints, so what does the Policing Authority do?

Garda Commissioner Noírín O’Sullivan is before the authority today – but she won’t be asked about those transcripts.

Garda Commissioner Noirin O Sullivan speaking at the Policing Authority in April.
Garda Commissioner Noirin O Sullivan speaking at the Policing Authority in April.

THE GARDA COMMISSIONER Noírin O’Sullivan is to appear before the relatively new Policing Authority today.

The Policing Authority was established earlier this year and is an independent body set up to oversee the performance of the gardaí.

It is not part of the An Garda Síochána or the Department of Justice and Equality. 

The authority is responsible for determining garda priorities, approving the three-year garda strategy, appointing and removing persons from ranks at and above superintendent levels, reviewing arrangements for the recruitment, training and development of garda members and civilian staff, as well as establishing a garda code of ethics.

It does not deal with complaints made by the public – the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) is tasked to deal with concerns about the conduct of members of the gardaí.

Overseeing the gardaí

The authority is also tasked with overseeing how the force performs its policing functions and ensuring it uses resources in a way that achieves the highest levels of efficiency and effectiveness.

25/4/2016. Policing Authority Meetings Source: RollingNews.ie

For these reasons, the Garda Commissioner is due to sit before the new body today to discuss the recently published O’Higgins report.

There have been criticisms leveled at the authority that despite promises it would be transparent, its meeting with the Nóirín O’Sullivan will be in private.

The issue of the leaked transcripts from the commission of investigation will not be addressed at the meeting today. However, she did say that she would address the issues arising from the O’Higgins report “to the fullest extent possible”.

The transcripts were first made public by RTÉ. The transcript showed a change in tack was employed by senior legal counsel following an admission that an error was made when stating there were instructions to challenge McCabe’s integrity.

While the Garda Commissioner did release a statement on the matter, criticisms were made that it did not address the issue of what instructions were given to her legal counsel.

france s

Political pressure mounted for over a week with the Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald stating that the Garda Commissioner would address the issues in her own time.

O’Sullivan has since released another statement - ahead of today’s appearance. She denied that her senior counsel was instructed – at any stage – to impugn the integrity of the sergeant or to make a case that he was acting maliciously.

However, she conceded that there was a challenge made in respect of his credibility and motivation.

Promotions 

Another function of the authority, which is due to come into effect next month, is to make garda position appointments.

This week, four of the eight vacant assistant garda commissioner posts were filled by the government – just a month before the new Policing Authority takes over responsibility for appointments.

These include appointing people to positions such as the Garda Commissioner, Deputy Garda Commissioner, as well as appointing persons to the ranks of Garda Superintendent, Chief Superintendent and Assistant Commissioner.

Currently the appointments are carried out by government or the Minister for Justice and Equality, but will be taken over by the authority in July.

The authority was established to create a higher degree of separation.

A government spokesperson defended the decision to appoint current chief superintendents to their new roles.

For some time, there have been eight assistant commissioner positions left unfilled for most of 2016, with at least two posts being empty since last October.

25/4/2016. Policing Authority Meetings Chairperson of the Policing Authority Josephine Feehily

When asked at the Cabinet briefing yesterday why the positions were suddenly filled, the delay was partly blamed on how long it took to form a new government.

The spokesperson said the appointments were made “being made for the right reasons”, adding that the decision was made to move on these promotions in light of the recent gun attacks, pointing to the the murder in Dublin’s inner city yesterday.

Due to recent events, he said the “maximum amount of leadership” is needed in the higher levels of garda management.

With public confidence in the gardaí and morale within the force said to be at an all-time low, the move to create more transparency and accountability with the authority’s establishment has been widely welcomed.

18/5/2015 Garda Authority and Miscellaneous Provisions Bills Source: Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland

As stated, the Policing Authority is different to GSOC, but it is also different to the Garda Inspectorate, which inspects particular aspects of the operation and administration of the gardaí.

The Policing Authority’s role is to “monitor the performance of the policing services provided by the gardaí as a whole, particularly in terms of ensuring that the resources invested are used to provide an effective, efficient police service”.

It said this will include a role in monitoring complaints received with a view to identifying trends and addressing issues of concern.

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