Tuesday, 6 February 2018
Ceisteanna - Questions (Resumed) - Priority Questions
Garda Commissioner Appointment
50. To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality the progress to date on arrangements for the selection of a new Garda Commissioner; the expected timeframe; the salary of the new Commissioner; the arrangements in relation to the appointment of a team to assist the Commissioner; if changes in legislation are required; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5752/18]
Last week The Irish Times published a report by Conor Lally which stated that Garda Commissioners would have the same power as Cabinet Ministers in appointing staff. The article also said that the successor to Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan was unlikely to be appointed before September. My question is simple. What is the progress to date in relation to the arrangements for the selection of the new Garda Commissioner? What is the expected timeframe? What is the new Commissioner's salary to be? What are the arrangements in relation to the appointment of a team to assist the Commissioner and whether changes to legislation are required?
The Policing Authority under section 9 of the Garda Síochána Act 2005 has responsibility for nominating persons for appointment by the Government to the post of Garda Commissioner. In the meantime we have an excellent Acting Commissioner in Dónall Ó Cualáin.
It is the first time that the new legislative process will be used.
I met the chair of the authority following the retirement of the previous Commissioner and we agreed that it is crucial that a deliberate and considered recruitment process takes place so that the best possible candidate is appointed following the selection process. We are also agreed that an overly long delay in the appointment of a new Commissioner would not be optimal for the organisation in terms of performance and morale.
The authority, during the autumn, undertook some essential ground work for the recruitment process in advance of the formal triggering of the statutory process by Government. This work included the conduct of research into aspects of the appointments process and engagement with my Department and with the Public Appointments Service, which will undertake the competition on behalf of the authority. That period also facilitated the chair of the authority to explore with the Commission on the Future of Policing how it sees the role and responsibilities of the next Commissioner. The commission, as the Deputy will be aware, is undertaking a comprehensive review of all aspects of policing in the State and is due to report in September.
Having regard to the progress made by the authority, I sought Government approval on 12 December to request the authority formally to commence the process for the selection and appointment of the next Commissioner. I met the chair of the authority again recently. The authority and Public Appointments Service are working together to finalise the arrangements for the competition with the intention of it being advertised as quickly as possible.
As I have stated previously, the overriding concern must be to ensure that the best possible candidate is selected to lead An Garda Síochána. This requires that the process attracts the widest possible field of candidates from a broad range of backgrounds. To support this, the authority provided advice on the remuneration package that would be required to attract candidates of the highest calibre. The Government accepted that advice in principle and agreed that my Department and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform would finalise the package prior to the position being advertised. That work is ongoing. I can assure the Deputy that salary will not be an obstacle to attracting the best candidate.
I am gleaning from the Minister that this is an ongoing process, no final salary has been determined and as of today there is still do not have a definitive date for an advertisement for the post. In clear yes-no terms, I ask the Minister if that is the case.
I also ask the Minister in relation to the recruitment of staff within that department because the newspaper article states that there is the possibility that the new Commissioner "could appoint their own team around them. These would likely be hired on a contract basis". Furthermore, promotions and appointments, as we know them within the Garda network, are such that, "Promotions and appointments have long been regarded as open to favouritism and nepotism", and that some work had been done on that. Can the Minister give us guarantees that if somebody is appointed externally and at the discretion of the new Garda Commissioner, it will not cause upset within the force where one is now subject to certain rigors and a new process in relation to guarding against nepotism?
The Government is keen to ensure that this process is designed in such a way as to attract a broad range of interest, both from within this jurisdiction from within the Garda Síochána and from, and on which there has been much mention and speculation made as to the likelihood of success of, an external candidate. I have an open mind on these issues. I believe it is important that we have a broadly based pool of candidate from which to choose and I acknowledge the advice and expertise of the Police Authority in that regard.
The authority has expressed the view that potential candidates would be likely to expect an assurance that they could appoint a small personal team in order to ensure that they would maximise their input and leadership of the Garda service. I am open to this. It must, however, be borne in mind that senior roles in An Garda Síochána, and indeed across the public service, are required to be filled by way of a transparent, competitive and merit-based process. There is no intention to dispense in any way with this approach. Rather what the Government has in mind is that the next Commissioner could, on a temporary contractual basis, appoint a small personal team comprised of individuals who would provide advice to the Commissioner and who would be supportive of the Commissioner in the discharge of his or her duties. No doubt Deputy Sherlock would concur that the role of Commissioner is a demanding one, not only in view of the policing and security environment, but also in view of the major reform programme under way and having regard to the role and function of the Commission on the Future of Policing, which is due to report in September. In such circumstances, the appointment of a small team of advisers would be a valuable support to the new Commissioner in dealing with the challenges of leading the service at this critical point in time.
As I stated, it is the desire of the Government that the competition should attract the widest possible pool of candidates, not only from within the jurisdiction but from beyond. It is for this reason that the Government earlier today agreed that a short piece of amending legislation should be brought forward as a matter of priority to address an anomaly that has been identified in the legislation governing the retirement of members of An Garda Síochána. The effect of the amendment will be to ensure that the same age limit applies to both internal and external candidates. I am anxious to ensure that there will be what I would describe as an even playing field.
The chair of the authority, the chair of the Commission on the Future of Policing and I are at one in our view that there should be an even playing field in the process between internal and external candidates in this regard. It is important that we have this issue resolved as a matter of priority. I hope I can rely on the support of Deputy Sherlock, and indeed all Deputies, to facilitate the speedy passage of what will be a short, single-section Bill to ensure the competition can proceed and that we can have the advertisement within a matter of weeks.