Regulations to transfer responsibility for Garda appointments to the Policing Authority should be in place before the end of the year, according to Chairperson Josephine Feehily.
Appearing before the Joint Committee on Justice and Equality this morning, Feehily said the challenge for the fledgling organisation was to “establish the authority as a legitimate stakeholder in the realm of policing”.
She told committee members the authority was “disappointed” about delays on amending the appointments process which had been identified as a “key piece of cultural change” within the service.
“We've been active at being ready,” Feehily said. She emphasised that dialogue with Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald and the Justice Department has been positive and she is quite satisfied their door is open.
She was asked by Independents 4 Change TD Mick Wallace about the findings of the O'Higgins Commission into the handling of garda whistleblower Maurice McCabe and the report of the Garda Inspectorate and whether the authority had the power to hold the Garda Commissioner to account.
Feehily agreed that Commissioner Noirín O'Sullivan's personal accountability is to the Tánaiste but added that the authority was determined to implement recent recommendations and address systems procedures.
Last week, Chairperson of the Garda Síochána Commission Mary Ellen Ring complained of delays in getting information from gardaí and of Gsoc's lack of power to force cooperation when information was not handed over.
Addressing the limitations of the Policing Authority, Feehily said the organisation was required by statute to report to the Tánaiste at the end of its first two years (the end of next year) about any constraints that might be stymying its work.
TD Clare Daly highlighted promotions in the force as a key issue and said it was her understanding that An Gardai Síochána was still not a safe place for whistleblowers.
“We all know a major raft of senior garda appointments were made without the authority's input at your inception which to me makes an absolute mockery of the act in the first place – particularly when many people on the promotion list are the very people complaints are being made about,” Daly said.
Last July, 28 officers were approved for senior roles under the old appointments regime.
Feehily said she shared the committee's interest in reform: “We're disappointed as well."
However, she was of the view the Garda Commissioner had faced a dilemma as the capacity of her senior team was seriously diminished.
In relation to whistleblowers, Feehily said a review on protected disclosures policy would be available in a couple of weeks.
Feehily told the joint committee that the authority wants to work “collaboratively” with An Garda Síochána on the upcoming Policing Plan being formulated by Commissioner O'Sullivan.
She said up until now there has not been a performance framework with real policing targets to monitor. She was of the view that the Commissioner should, as is done in Northern Ireland, give brief monthly updates to the authority on performance goals.