62. Deputy Jonathan O'Brien asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality the status of the operation of the Policing Authority and the full implementation of its power with regard to appointments to An Garda Síochána; and her plans to increase the powers of the authority. [40424/16]
Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): The Deputy will be aware that the Policing Authority is an independent statutory body established on 1 January 2016 to oversee the performance of the Garda Síochána in relation to policing services, to promote public awareness of policing matters and to promote and support the continuous improvements in policing in Ireland. The statutory basis and functions of the Authority are derived from the Garda Síochána (Policing Authority and Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2015 which amended the Garda Síochána Act 2005.
The Authority has powers to:
- Hold the Gardaí to account, with senior Garda management reporting to the Authority, including via public meetings;
- Determine Garda priorities in relation to policing services;
- Nominate persons for appointment by the Government to the posts of Garda Commissioner and Deputy Garda Commissioner;
- Appoint persons to the ranks of Garda Superintendent, Chief Superintendent and Assistant Commissioner (and remove them for reasons related to policing services);
- Appoint persons to senior positions within the Garda civilian staff.
Since its inception, the Policing Authority has been focussing, as a matter of priority, on its functions which have statutory deadlines and reform significance. I am aware that the Policing Authority has met on several occasions with the Commissioner and her senior team, as a follow up on its consideration of the O’Higgins Report and related matters . A number of these meetings have been held in public to reassure the community about the performance of the Garda Síochána. Areas that have been highlighted in the discussions include:
- Implementation of the Modernisation and Renewal Programme within An Garda Síochána;
- Review of the Garda Protected Disclosure policy;
- Plans to conduct a culture audit within An Garda Síochána;
- Corporate governance arrangements and management structures within An Garda Síochána; and
- Arrangements for training and the professional development of members.
In addition, the Authority has approved a three-year Strategy for An Garda Síochána. It has also determined the policing priorities for 2017 which will inform the content of the 2017 Policing Plan to be published before the end of the year. It has reviewed and issued recommendations on the Garda Protected Disclosure policy and will also establish a Code of Ethics that includes standards of conduct and practice for Garda members.
The Deputy will be aware that Section 62(O)(2) of the Garda Síochána Act 2005, as amended, requires the Policing Authority, within two years from its establishment, to submit to the Minister a report on the effectiveness of the Authority and the adequacy of the functions assigned to it. In addition, under Section 61(1) of the Garda Síochána (Policing Authority and Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2015, the Minister must, in consultation with the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, not later than five years after the establishment of the Authority, review the operation of the legislation.
The sections of the Garda Síochána (Policing Authority and Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2015 which remain to be commenced contain provisions concerning the Policing Authority's functions in relation to appointment and removal of members of An Garda Síochána. The commencement of these sections is dependent on the regulations governing promotion and discipline in An Garda Síochána being amended to reflect the envisaged role for the Authority. My intention is to bring the Regulations to Government for approval next week and that the Authority will take over the appointment function by 1 January 2017. Once this is done it will be a matter for the Authority to undertake its own selection competitions for appointments to these ranks.