Sunday 25 February 2018

Controversy rumbles on as hunt for new garda chief begins

Former Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan
Former Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan

Fionnan Sheahan and Emma-Jane Hade

The recruitment process for a new Garda Commissioner has finally begun as the controversy over the departure of the previous incumbent continues to rage.

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald has been forced to deny Taoiseach Enda Kenny sacked former Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan (right). "He didn't fire him. Martin Callinan resigned," she said.

Mr Callinan actually retired in the wake of the emergence of the taping of phone conversations in garda stations. But his retirement came about after he was visited by outgoing Department of Justice Secretary General Brian Purcell, who was ordered to go to speak to the garda chief by Mr Kenny.

Following the publication of a review of the Department of Justice, Mr Purcell is now to stand aside and move to another job in the public sector.

Mr Kenny is facing calls to appear before the Oireachtas Justice Committee to answer questions about the circumstances surrounding Mr Callinan's departure.

But Health Minister Leo Varadkar said he did not think it would be necessary for Mr Kenny to appear before the committee because the issue was being examined by an inquiry.

"I don't think it is necessary. We have a Commission of Inquiry under Justice Fennelly and I think he should be allowed to do his work," he said.

Mr Varadkar also defended the Government stance of allowing Mr Purcell to retain his salary of €185,000 and move to a new post in the public sector.

"I haven't read the report yet, but I really don't want to comment on a report that I haven't read, I hope to get a chance to read it at the weekend, with a lot of other reading I have to do over the next few weeks," he said.

"But I imagine that Mr Purcell has contractual rights and so on, and it may relate to that, but really it is a matter for Minister Fitzgerald to comment on rather than me."

The Government is now moving towards the appointment of a new Garda Commissioner.

The position will be filled by an open recruitment process, with applicants expected to come from inside and outside the force.

International recruitment experts will be used to help select the next chief.

Interim Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan took over from Mr Callinan following his retirement.

The appointment of the new Garda Commissioner is expected to be made by the end of the year.

Ms Fitzgerald said the appointment of the new Commissioner was part of a wider process of "reform and renewal" relating to the Garda Siochana, which will also include the establishment of a police authority.

"As the Government has previously announced, the current vacancy in the post of Garda Commissioner is to be filled through an open competition.

"I am very pleased that the Public Appointments Service, which the Government has asked to independently manage the competition, is today starting that process by seeking proposals from executive search firms to conduct a global executive search campaign to supplement an advertised recruitment process," she said.


The review of the Department of Justice found a "closed secretive culture" and "leadership and management problems".

The review, undertaken in the wake of the garda scandals, found the dysfunctional department has a "deferential relationship" with the Garda Siochana with a lack of proper accountability.

The report doesn't specifically refer to the garda scandals, the management of the whistleblower affair or the taping fiasco.

But it does cite "recent events" and says there were "serious leadership and management failures" in the Garda Division in the department and senior management "regarding how briefings between the minister and senior management were handled".

The failings included no one person being in charge of the overall issues, no overall plan to deal with the issues as they unfolded, no recognition of the serious potential impact of the issues and an inability to see where things go wrong.

Irish Independent

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