High Court battle looms over senior garda job
An unprecedented battle will be fought in the High Court over a top Garda job.
The case has created a further delay in filling the two positions of deputy commissioner, one of which has now been vacant for two years. It also represents the first time that an officer of senior garda management has legally challenged the Commissioner over a promotion selection while being a serving member of the force.
The High Court has listed this Wednesday for the hearing of an injunction sought by Assistant Commissioner Fintan Fanning preventing the posts being filled following a recent promotion process.
Mr Fanning, who was an unsuccessful candidate for the jobs, claims he was asked by Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan during interviews for the posts about his views on "left-wing political extremism in Ireland" and on left-wing politicians. He says he was "taken aback" and "uncomfortable" about being asked such questions and argued that the competition was unfair.
He also claims that Ms O'Sullivan should have declared a potential conflict of interest, prior to the interviews, and recused herself from them. This is understood to be a reference to the decision by Ms O'Sullivan to appoint two of the other candidates to act as deputy commissioners in the interim.
The claims were made when Mr Fanning initiated his High Court action last April.
Since then, counsel for the respondents, the Public Appointments Service, Ireland and the Attorney General, said Ms O'Sullivan and the members of the interview panel would refute the claims made by Mr Fanning.
One of the vacancies stemmed from the retirement of Nacie Rice as deputy commissioner in May 2013 while the second arose from the official appointment of Ms O'Sullivan as Commissioner last November, following the forced departure of Martin Callinan the previous March.
After the interviews, the names of three candidates, John Twomey, Donal O Cualain and Kieran Kenny, were shortlisted for the jobs.
One of the new deputies will be responsible for Garda operations, while the other will take charge of professional standards, governance and accountability.
For the first time, the promotion competition was thrown open to candidates from outside the force and outside the jurisdiction. The failure to fill the jobs has led to growing concern in all ranks, particularly when the force is undergoing its biggest overhaul since its foundation.
Mr Fanning, who is currently responsible for policing in the eastern region, is the second most senior assistant commissioner. He claims that during his March 10 interview, he had, in response to a question from another member of the interview panel, discussed the threat from the terrorist group, Islamic State and also discussed domestic terrorism.
In response to Ms O'Sullivan, he said he talked about IS in Belgium and terrorist incidents in Paris where lives had been lost. Asked for a further example, he said he discussed the risks posed by dissident republican activists, including the IRA "in its forms", and explained he was responsible for policing at Portlaoise prison.
He was then asked, he said, about "left-wing political extremism in Ireland" and his views on left-wing politicians.
Mr Fanning said he was "uncomfortable" being asked such a question as he was conscious he had a statutory obligation not to affiliate or associate with any political group. He said he found himself in a position where his superior officer and Commissioner was asking a direct question he had to deal with, and believed it was wrong to ask a question at interview in relation to his political views.
Mr Fanning said he considered the line of questioning "very unfair" and he did not believe other candidates were asked a similar type of question. He was informed the following day he had not been successful. He sought feedback and was told he did not demonstrate "the breadth of strategic thinking to progress to the next stage".
A review was later carried out at his request, but no input was sought from him before he was given the results of that, he said.