Thursday 25 December 2014

Employing non-Irish Commissioner is 'madness' say senior gardai

Published 10/08/2014 | 02:30

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald: no personnel changes so far
Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald: no personnel changes so far

Ireland would be the only country in the world with a foreigner as head of both its police and intelligence service, if the international competition to select a new Garda Commissioner appoints a non-Irish candidate, according to new research carried out by the Department of Justice.

It concludes Ireland would be unique in the world in having an outsider as the effective head of the security of the State.

There is no provision in law that stipulates that such a sensitive position must be held by a native citizen.

Both the original 1924 Garda Siochana Act and the 2005 revised version introduced by then Minister Michael McDowell contains no provision preventing a foreigner from heading up the Garda.

Under current Garda regulations, a person can join the force if they are an EU citizen, a refugee under the Refugee Act or have a period of four year's continuous residence in the State. However, this only applies to applicants for the rank of garda.

The position of Garda Commissioner is being advertised "globally", and is set to attract applicants who would not be able to apply for the most junior rank of the force.

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald announced the competition for the top policing job in the country two weeks ago, confirming she had directed the Public Appointments Service "to conduct a global executive search campaign to supplement an advertised recruitment process".

There has been speculation that the sensitivities involved in protecting State secrets might lead to a decision to separate the roles of ordinary policing and those of the Special Detective Unit, better known as the Special Branch.

Most other countries have separate police and spy agencies, but An Garda Siochana has traditionally integrated the functions of the Special Branch and ordinary police work to counter domestic terrorism and political subversion. At the height of the Troubles, almost all the gardai in the country were reporting intelligence on the movements of suspected IRA people upwards to Garda HQ's Crime and Security Division, and onwards to the Special Branch.

A critical part of the State's security apparatus was the function of 'ordinary' detectives outside Dublin who played a dual anti-subversive and anti-'ordinary' crime function. This effectively gave the Special Branch an effective force of more than a thousand plain clothes officers.

The notion of appointing an outsider as head of the Gardai arose in response to the whistleblower scandals that engulfed the force earlier this year and culminated in the resignations of former Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan and Justice Minister Alan Shatter.

Senior Garda and Government sources last week claimed the Cabinet had been "panicked" into considering appointing a foreigner as head of the State's security after it faced a huge backlash from the public.

"Its madness," one senior officer said.

Sunday Independent

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