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Thursday 23 November 2017

Delays in finding new Garda chief 'may hit reforms'

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Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

The head of the police watchdog fears a lengthy delay in appointing a new Garda commissioner could affect the pace of reforms.

Policing Authority chairperson Josephine Feehily said the prospect of a delay of 16 to 18 months was troubling.

Her comments came after the intervention of Kathleen O'Toole, head of the Commission on the Future of Policing, who said in a letter to Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan it would be a serious mistake to appoint a permanent successor to former commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan before it had completed its work on a root-and-branch review of the force.

That review is not scheduled to be completed until September of next year. But Ms Feehily said if recruitment only started at that point it could be an additional six months before a new commissioner was in place.

Mr Flanagan is considering Ms O'Toole's advice to delay the recruitment process, but said he hoped the commission, the Police Authority and the Government could work towards an earlier timeframe.

Ms Feehily's body will have significant responsibility for drawing up the job specification for Ms O'Sullivan's replacement. While the process will be run by the Public Appointments Service, the authority will be represented on the interview board.

Ms Feehily told the Oireachtas Justice Committee she could understand the basis for Ms O'Toole's warning, saying it was "well considered".

"If I was a candidate, I kind of might want to know what job was going to be laid out before me in the future before deciding whether to apply," she said.

"On the other hand, the idea of a lacuna troubles me. So I can see arguments on both sides."

She said the authority had yet to decide where it stood on the issue, but added: "I certainly would be, and I know my colleagues are, concerned about an impact on the pace of reform."

Ms Feehily said work on recruiting a new commissioner had not advanced much since Ms O'Sullivan's sudden retirement on September 10.

She said it had been researching the labour market and what pay might be expected. It has been speculated the Government may sanction a salary far in excess of the €180,000 currently on offer to attract high-calibre foreign candidates.

Irish Independent

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