The head of the Policing Authority has said a new Garda commissioner could be an “outsider” but that the package for the role needs to be improved.

Chairwoman Josephine Feehily, addressing the Association of European Journalists, outlined outstanding reforms needed in the force and said it had been a “rollercoaster” for the authority in its first two years of operations.

Discussing the penalty-points scandal, Ms Feehily said: “It is a real challenge for Garda management to get gardaí to pay attention to counting things and putting them into IT systems because they are trained in a whole different way.”

She said: “Absence of statistics might be excusable but inflated ones aren’t.”

The authority has concerns around the training of gardaí, including their inability to drive or use firearms. “If they are not qualified to drive squad cars, that is kind of problematic,” said Ms Feehily.

She said the authority would continue to monitor the force. “I think transparency is an enormously important soft power and I also believe firmly in the disinfectant qualities of sunlight. And disinfectant can stink.

“But I do think transparency is good for the gardaí, transparency is good for community policing, for community confidence in policing. We will continue, as an authority, to shine those lights in the coming years.”

Speaking about the task of recruiting a new Garda commissioner, Ms Feehily said an outsider could be suited to the position.

“People move around large, complex organisations all the time. We would be of the view that someone joining, who wasn’t from the gardaí or from Ireland, might need a small personal team to help with that transition.”

Ms Feehily said the authority has an open mind on the matter. “I don’t see it as a barrier.” She said the authority had made a recommendation to the justice minister on the package or pay for the role, reiterating that it needs to be “improved”.

Ms Feehily was also asked if former commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan had been “duplicitous” when dealing with the authority and government.

“I don’t believe Nóirín set out to be duplicitous, I think Nóirín had a very strong sense of mission for the Garda organisation. I think partly what happened is that there were so many crises that it became almost overwhelming.

“But I think she was somebody who had really strong commitment to policing and to the gardaí and her intention certainly would have been to perform that role honourably.”

A Department of Justice spokesman said last night that the authority’s recommendations on the process to recruit a new commissioner would go before Cabinet “shortly”.

(Source: June McEnroe, Irish Examiner)

Josephine Feehily with AEJ Chairman Richard Moore

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