| 12.2°C Dublin

Garda chief was against top officers staying on

Callinan warned of 'exodus' from force if retirement age was extended

Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan, who last week received an extension to his role taking him two years over the compulsory garda retirement age of 60, opposed the extension of service for other senior officers in a High Court case four years ago.

The case was brought by the former head of crime investigation, former Assistant Commissioner Martin Donnellan, who objected to the compulsory retirement age of 60 for all senior officers, something that does not occur in other European forces.

Mr Donnellan lost his case against the Minister for Justice in the High Court, and the then Deputy Commissioner Callinan gave evidence that extending the retirement age to 65 would cause an "exodus" of younger officers and a "blockage" in promotions.

Last week the minister, Alan Shatter, announced that Commissioner Callinan would be receiving a two-year extension to his career beyond the age of 60. Similar exemptions to the compulsory retirement age were previously granted to the last two garda commissioners as well, though all ranks underneath were required to go at 60.

The minister is to seek approval from the Cabinet for the change. He said he had made his decision because he believed "it is desirable that there should be continuity in garda leadership, and I am delighted that Martin has agreed to this extension", adding: "His leadership over this period, during which there will be further challenges to be met, will be invaluable."

While many senior gardai are happy with the 60 retirement age, when they receive a year-and-a-half salary lump sum and a 50 per cent index-linked pension, others were deeply unhappy, prompting former Assistant Commissioner Donnellan in his unsuccessful High Court challenge.

In his judgment on the case, Judge William McKechnie made particular reference to then Deputy Commissioner Callinan's evidence against any proposal to extend the enforced age of retirement.

Judge McKechnie said: "This witness also described An Garda Siochana as a 'very flat organisation' with about 1.35 per cent of its members being superintendents, 0.38 per cent being chief superintendents and only 0.09 per cent at the level of assistant commissioner. At deputy commissioner level it is less than 0.01 per cent. Given these figures, it was his opinion that if the age of retirement for assistant commissioner was increased to 65, this opportunity would benefit eight assistant commissioners who could potentially remain in the force for another five years.

"That would have the effect of depriving or deferring a similar number of chief superintendents of promotion, and likewise with superintendents and so on. This is because any increase in age would have a domino effect.

"In his opinion, any such alteration would create a serious potential for 'exodus' among officers who otherwise might expect promotion in the near future. Moreover, if the plaintiff was successful in this case, it would most likely be that the Association of Superintendents and the Association of Chief Superintendents would also benefit from such judgment. This could have serious complications.

"A return to the retiring age of 65 would have a serious detrimental effect on the force, including the 2,000-odd members with third-level qualifications who have joined An Garda Siochana since 2003."

Judge McKechnie also cited what Commissioner Callinan referred to as a "blockage" occurring if retirement for senior officers was extended and, the judge added, such changes would decrease "motivation and dynamism within all ranks of the force".

Earlier this year the Government agreed to allow prison governors to remain in their jobs after 60.

With Commissioner Callinan's extension, the next most senior officer in terms of age and rank, Deputy Commissioner Nacie Rice, will reach retirement point next October. Deputy Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan, tipped to be the first female commiss-ioner, has eight more years of service before reaching the retirement deadline.

No comment was available from garda headquarters.

Sunday Independent