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Garda over penalty point office in line for promotion


Garda John Mcdonald

Garda John Mcdonald

Garda John Mcdonald

THE garda in charge of the centralised penalty point office is in line for promotion despite criticism of the unit he is overseeing, the Irish Independent can reveal.

Independent TD Mick Wallace used Dáil privilege to ask Taoiseach Enda Kenny if Inspector John McDonald, who oversees the force's embattled penalty point cancellation office, was named on a list of gardaí proposed for promotion.

The Wexford TD said Insp McDonald was in charge of the Fixed Charge Processing Office in Thurles, Co Tipperary.

The Taoiseach hit back at Mr Wallace, saying he did not know if the inspector was in line for promotion. However, the Irish Independent established Insp McDonald is named on a list of gardaí selected by a panel to move up in rank.

Mr Wallace's comments follow the publication of an internal garda audit of penalty points which criticised the running of the Fixed Charge Processing Office (FCPO).

The power to cancel points was centralised with the Thurles office last year, following a massive overhaul of the system. Prior to this decision, superintendents in regional divisions were responsible for cancelling points.

The majority of the failings identified in the Garda Inspectorate's damning penalty point report centred on a lack of oversight and lax attitude to policy throughout the country.

However, the Garda Professional Standard Unit's (PSU) audit of penalty points, published this week, highlighted fresh concerns with the operation of the FCPO.

Most notably, the review found a "significant increase" in undelivered fixed charges notices in the Thurles office, which were later cancelled.

The FCPO claimed this was due to internal procedures introduced in September 2013, but this system was changed the following year.

The problems pre-dated sweeping changes to the penalty point system introduced last year. It was also noted that there was a number of issues outside the office's control which meant points were not delivered.

The report also recommended establishing an enforcement unit in Thurles to pursue people evading fines.

However, it said the centralisation of decision-making with the FCPO "enhanced the controls over the penalty point system".

"We formed the view that we could place confidence in the procedures for the cancellation management in the office," it stated. The audit was sparked by allegations of penalty points abuse from garda whistleblower Maurice McCabe.

The panel responsible for selecting Mr McDonald for promotion is comprised of a senior garda and two civilians appointed by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.

Earlier this month, it drew up a list of 45 gardaí to fill senior positions left vacant after a wave of retirements in the force.

The list will go before the Cabinet for approval.

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