Thursday 22 February 2018

Assistant Garda Commissioner refused court injunctions restraining recruitment process for Deputy Commissioner post

Four Courts
Four Courts

Tim Healy

AN Assistant Garda Commissioner who claimed the Garda Commissioner asked him unfair questions about his views on left wing political “extremists” while being interviewed for the position of Deputy Commissioner has been refused injunctions restraining the recruitment process for the post.

John Fintan Fanning alleged the nature of the questions from the Commissioner, along with several other factors, rendered the conduct of the recruitment process unfair and flawed.

In opposing his case, the Public Appointments Service and the State denied Mr Fanning was asked questions about his own political views and said the questions related instead to his views concerning the main security threats confronting the State.

They also rejected claims the Commissioner had a conflict of interest arising from media reports suggesting three candidates intended to be recommended to the Government for appointment as Deputy Commissioner were the same three Assistant Commissioners whom Commissioner O'Sullivan had in July 2014 personally selected to be acting Deputy Commissioners.

Mr Fanning had sought injunctions, to apply pending the outcome of his full High Court action, restraining further continuation of the recruitment process for the Deputy Commissioner position.

In a judgment earlier today, Mr Justice David Keane refused those injunctions on grounds including Mr Fanning had failed to make out a fair issue to be tried concerning his various claims.

The judge said Mr Fanning's precise allegations concerning the allegedly unfair line of questioning put to him remains "frustratingly unclear".

Mr Fanning's own assertions and the evidence put forward by him on that issue were "too vague and inconsistent" and the evidence did not demonstrate there was any question regarding Mr Fanning's personal views on any politician or political party, the judge said.

It was also "inconceivable" it could be suggested it was inappropriate, "much less improper or unlawful", to ask any of the candidates about their views on the security or terrorist threat to the state or any citizens that may, or may not, be posed by militant groups, whether dissident republicans, jihadist extremists, left wing, "or indeed, right wing" extremists, he said.

The court could not accept, in being asked such questions, Mr Fanning was being asked to volunteer anything about his own personal political ideology, he said.

He also found it was "inconceivable" an informed objective person could reasonably apprehend bias on the part of the Garda Commissioner arising from operational or management decisions made by her involving one or more of the candidates in the recruitment process.

Mr Fanning had failed, on the evidence to date, to make out a fair issue to be tried concerning an alleged failure to give him the benefit of review procedures such as would entitle him to the injunctions sought, the judge said.

In further findings, the judge said damages would not be an adequate remedy for the respondents should the recruitment process remain stalled and the balance of convenience was against granting the orders sought. Costs issues in the case will be addressed next month.

Conor Power SC, for the respondents, said their undertaking not to continue with the recruitment process would now be lifted given the court's decision.

Mr Fanning was among seven persons shortlisted for interview by a five member interview board comprising Sir Hugh Orde, former president of the Association of Chief Police Officers; Sean Dorgan, Chairman of the Irish Management Institute; Dermot Gallagher, former Secretary General of the Department of Foreign Affairs; Commissioner O'Sullivan and a PAS representative, Margaret McCabe. He was told the following day he was not successful.

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