Gardaí could be left without a chief for at least another year
Minister told to wait for 'clarity on job' in commission report
Crisis-ridden An Garda Síochána could be left without a chief for at least another year after a dramatic intervention by the Commission on the Future of Policing.
The body set up to carry out a root-and-branch review of An Garda Síochána has warned it would be a "serious mistake" to appoint a commissioner before it concludes its work.
In a letter to Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan, the commission's head Kathleen O'Toole said it would not be realistic "to expect credible candidates to come forward in the absence of clarity about what the job will entail".
Mr Flanagan said he will "carefully consider" the correspondence from Ms O'Toole, who is the Chief of Police in Seattle in the US.
She was recruited by the Government in May to review the role, structures, leadership and management, ethos and culture of policing in Ireland, as well as the existing oversight.
In her letter, she wrote: "We are still at an early stage in our consultative process and it is too early to predict what our eventual recommendations will be, but we can say without doubt they will significantly affect the future role and responsibilities of the commissioner of An Garda Síochána and the management structure of the organisation she or he heads."
To date the commission's work has led it to study issues surrounding governance, accountability, the role of policing and the current powers and responsibilities of the commissioner.
Ms O'Toole says she believes "very significant changes, including legislation" will be needed that would have implications for the search and selection of a replacement for Nóirín O'Sullivan.
"We believe it would be a serious mistake to proceed with the selection of a new Garda commissioner until this commission has produced its report on the transformation of national policing arrangements," she said. The work is not due to be complete until September 2018.
In a statement last night, Mr Flanagan responded: "In my discussions with the chair of the Policing Authority about a process to identify and appoint a permanent commissioner to An Garda Síochána, we agreed it is crucial that a deliberate and considered recruitment process takes place so that the best possible candidate is appointed.
"I know the commission shares this objective and I am grateful for its input which I will carefully consider."
Meanwhile, the chairperson of the Policing Authority will warn politicians that her work shouldn't be viewed as "a game of 'Gotcha'".
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Josephine Feehily will today outline what she sees as the key achievements of the authority since its establishment - but also tell an Oireachtas committee to be clear on its role.
"It is important I end by underlining that oversight is not an end in itself and it is not a game of 'Gotcha'," she said.
"It is about enhancing policing performance with a view to ensuring that communities are safe, that the country is secure and that the Irish people receive the best possible service from An Garda Síochána."
The statement forms part of a contribution to the Oireachtas Committee on Justice, where she will be quizzed on the search for a new commissioner.
However, she will say: "I cannot discuss anything relating to an individual candidate and that I need to be careful not to say anything which might even by inference appear to relate to an individual or to prejudice any future selection processes in which the authority might be involved."