I move amendmentNo. 42:
In page 13, between lines 19 and 20, to insert the following:
"(2) The appointment of a Deputy Garda Commissioner and Assistant Garda Commissioner will be merit-based, and subject to a transparent public recruitment process.
(3) The appointment of a Deputy Garda Commissioner and Assistant Garda Commissioner will be subject to ratification by Bord an Gharda Síochána.".
Is é an fáth gur chuir mé an leasú seo síos ná go bhfuil mé ag iarraidh déanamh cinnte de go roghnaítear daoine do na postanna tábhachtacha seo ar bhonn córais oscailte. Is oth liom nár glacadh leis an leasú, mar luaigh mé bord an Gharda Síochána. Glacadh le leasú eile de mo chuid a luaigh bord an Gharda Síochána, ach rialaíodh an ceann sin as ord. Tugann sé seo an deis dom míniú cad é bord an Gharda Síochána agus cad a bhí i gceist agam. Ní bhfuair mé an deis roimh ré.
Má tá muid chun glacadh leis an leasú seo, caithfidh muid an míniú sin a thabhairt. Ba é an rud a bhí i gceist ná go ndéanfaí cinnte de go gcruthófaí bord neamhspleách saoránach do phóilíneacht ar bhonn reachtúil. Bheadh an bord sin ag feidhmiú mar chomhlacht saoránach ar a mbeadh freagracht Choimisinéar an Gharda. Comhlíonfaidh sé gné eile den chúram a bhí molta d'fhoireann cigireachta. Cuirfidh sé maoirseacht bainistíochta ar fáil ar ábhair mar earcaíocht, cáilíochtaí, caighdeán oiliúna, treallamh, lóistín, eagrú, modhanna agus sárchleachtadh. Nuair a chuir muid an achainí os comhair an Aire i Samhain 2003, nuair a lorg sé aighneachtaíón phobal i leith Bhille an Gharda Síochána, dúirt muid gur chóir go mbeadh bord póilíneachta ann a bheadh neamhspleách ar bhainistíocht na ngardaí, go mbeadh sé ionadaíoch, go mbeadh an próiseas ceapacháin trédhearcach, bunaithe ar fhiúntas agus neamhspleách ar na gardaí. Tá sé sa leasú seo, áit ar leag muid síos that the appointment be merit-based and subject to a transparent public recruitment process.
Lean muid ar aghaidh á rá gur cheart go gceapfaí na gardaí sinsireacha ar bhonn an phróisis seo. Bheadh cruinnithe poiblí míosúla ann le Coimisinéar an Gharda chun tuairiscí a fháil ar an bhainistíocht. Mhol muid cumhachtaí eile don bhord póilíneachta. Le déanamh cinnte de go mbeadh an bord trédhearcach ó thús, dá mbeimis ag toghú Choimisinéar an Gharda nó Leas-Choimisinéar, ba cheart dóibh tuiscint go díreach cad atá i gceist anseo.
Sin cuid den mheascán de ghnéithe éagsúla a bhíá gcur chun cinn againn san achainí a dhein muid agus sa pholasaí a chuir muid os comhair an Aire.
I proposed initially the establishment of bord an Gharda Síochána and that the members of the board would be nominated by the Minister, following a transparent public recruitment process based on published criteria. I went further in that I wanted to ensure the appointment of the deputy Garda commissioner and the assistant Garda commissioner would be merit-based, rather than that they be appointed because they knew somebody, did somebody a favour or had been around for a long time. That is the reason for this amendment. I include the caveat that not only should they be appointed on the basis proposed in the amendment, but that the board should have a final say and the appointment should be subject to ratification by the board.
I will explain how the board we suggested would be selected. It was intended that members of the board would be nominated by the Minister, following a transparent public recruitment process based on published criteria, where the Minister was satisfied the proposed members of the board had appropriate expertise, qualifications, training or experience, and in accordance with a series of subsections. It was proposed that no fewer than one third of the members of such a board would be cross-party public representatives, no fewer than one third would be representative of statutory agencies and no fewer than one third would be representative of the community and voluntary sector. I proposed also that no fewer than 50% of the members of bord an Gharda Síochána would be women.
I proposed that nominations to the board should be made on the basis of positive action, with a view to ensuring the membership would be diverse and as representative as possible of all sections of society, including and in particular, working-class people, ethnic minorities, Travellers, people with disabilities and lesbian, gay and bisexual people. I also proposed that the chairperson of the board should be nominated and elected by its members and that the elected representatives should not be eligible to hold the chair. My proposal is not entirely unlike the Minister's proposed inspectorate under Part 5 or not entirely unlike Deputy Costello's proposal for a police authority.
The proposed purpose of bord an Gharda Síochána would be to provide civilian management oversight with regard to recruitment qualifications, training standards, equipment, accommodation, distribution, organisation, methods, procedures and practices of an Garda Síochána. It would not only support the desire to achieve and practise international best standards of efficiency and effectiveness, but would foster public confidence in the service.
I intended to require by statute that the members of bord an Gharda Síochána should familiarise themselves with international best practice, including human rights standards on policing. This ties in with the need for the appointment to the high office positions of deputy Garda commissioner and assistant Garda commissioner to be merit-based. Those who go forward for selection should be familiar with international best practice so they could work with the members of the board and ensure that best standards in policing were maintained.
I wanted the board to have the power to appoint members of the Garda Síochána to senior ranks and made this proposal in subsection (3) of my amendment. This would be on the basis of the same transparent process. The board would review their performance and hold them accountable for their action or inaction. In contrast to the Minister's proposals, I wanted this board to meet monthly and in public and that the Garda Commissioner should be present for at least part of each meeting to present a report or reports and answer questions from members of the board. In that context, the chair of the board would present the formal report to the Garda Commissioner on behalf of bord an Gharda Síochána as necessary. Copies of such reports would also be provided to the Minister.
I intended that the members of bord an Gharda Síochána would have the opportunity and responsibility to question the Garda Commissioner, to communicate concerns and priorities to him or her, and to make recommendations as necessary. I also proposed that the Garda Commissioner should be required to make available all information requested by bord an Gharda Síochána, unless the members agreed that it was clearly in the public interest to withhold such information on the basis of a serious threat to public security or safety, the safety of an individual or the need to refrain from jeopardising an investigation or prosecution. If the board considered that the terms of the test had not been met, I proposed that it could decide to hold certain sessions other than in public for the purpose of receiving information from the Garda Commissioner. The board would have to agree that to do so was necessary to safeguard the public from a serious threat to public security, public safety or the safety of an individual or to refrain from jeopardising an investigation or prosecution. I wanted to propose that the Garda Commissioner be required to provide an explanation for his or her decisions as well as the decisions and actions or inactions of those under his direction and control if requested by the proposed board to do so.
I also wanted to propose that bord an Gharda Síochána be charged with agreeing short-term, medium-term and long-term strategic priorities and objectives for an Garda Síochána. I wanted to propose that the board be allowed to provide details of the priorities and objectives to the Minister, as part of the process of setting ministerial priorities and performance targets under section 19, and to the Garda Commissioner, as part of the process of agreeing strategy statements under section 20 or annual policing plans under section 21.
Needless to say, I think the Minister should be required to consult a board like bord an Gharda Síochána and to have due regard to its views when he or she is setting priorities and performance targets for an Garda Síochána under section 19. Likewise, the Garda Commissioner should be required to consult such a board and have due regard to its views when he or she is formulating and implementing strategy statements under section 20 or annual policing plans under section 21.
I wanted to propose that bord an Gharda Síochána be charged with monitoring the performance and budget management of the Garda against the priorities and performance targets drawn up under section 19, the strategy statements drawn up under section 20 and the annual policing plans drawn up under section 21. I intended to suggest that the board would monitor the performance and budget management of the Garda in the context of its own recommendations under the proposed section 119. It could also conduct such monitoring in light of any other indicators which it deems appropriate. I wanted to propose that the board could make recommendations to the Garda Commissioner and the Minister, as appropriate, based on its assessment. Such recommendations could relate to resource allocations, policy change or change of practice. The Garda Commissioner and the Minister would be required to take due regard of such recommendations.
It was my intention to propose that bord an Gharda Síochána be able to refer such matters as it deemed necessary and appropriate to the ombudsman of an Garda Síochána and to the Comptroller and Auditor General. I wanted to propose that the board be allowed to establish independent inquiries into certain matters, as it deemed appropriate, having due regard to the public interest.
Finally, I wanted to propose in a spirit of accountability that bord an Gharda Síochána be required to publish an annual report. I proposed to require the board to furnish copies of the report to the Garda Commissioner and the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform and to lay copies of it before the Houses of the Oireachtas.
As I have said, it is a pity that my proposals in respect of bord an Gharda Síochána have not been taken on board to date. Even if my amendment No. 42 were accepted, the effect of it would be lost to a certain extent because the other amendments have been ruled out of order. I wanted to put amendment No. 42 in the context of the entire jigsaw into which it fits. I did not refer to bord an Gharda Síochána in the amendment without making provision for it elsewhere. It was a central part of the positive and well worked ideas I intended to propose to ensure that this Bill established a one-person Garda ombudsman as well as bord an Gharda Síochána which I have mentioned. I also proposed the establishment of community policing structures, known as páirtnéireachtaí póilíneachta phobail, on a lower level than the structures suggested by the Minister. The structures would be accountable to the communities in which gardaí would work.
Most of my proposals were outlined in the submission Sinn Féin made to the Minister. I favour the introduction of community partnerships which are akin to the policing fora which have been established in recent years. Such fora have not been properly resourced and do not have the statutory basis they deserve. The community structures I proposed would be on a lower basis. There would be one community policing partnership in each police district. I do not agree with the Minister's suggestion that one partnership should serve an entire local authority area.
Each of my proposals is a piece of the overall jigsaw. That the rest of my amendments have been ruled out of order does not mean that the Minister cannot take on board amendment No. 42, which proposes that: "The appointment of a Deputy Garda Commissioner and Assistant Garda Commissioner will be merit-based, and subject to a transparent public recruitment process." I accept that the second part of the amendment would not have much meaning unless the Minister were to take on board all the other related amendments which have been ruled out of order.
The full sense of my party's proposals in this regard can be gleaned if one examines amendment No. 1, which proposed a change to the Long Title of the Bill. That amendment recommended that the Bill should establish:
THREE BODIES FOR THE PURPOSE OF ACHIEVING THE HIGHEST LEVEL OF PUBLIC CONFIDENCE IN AND CO-OPERATION WITH AN GARDA SÍOCHÁNA, INCLUDING A BODY TO BE KNOWN AS OMBUDSMAN AN GHARDA SÍOCHÁNA FOR THE PURPOSES OF ENSURING TRANSPARENCY AND ACCOUNTABILITY IN THE PROCESS OF INVESTIGATING COMPLAINTS AGAINST THE GARDA SÍOCHÁNA, A BODY TO BE KNOWN AS BÓRD AN GHARDA SÍOCHÁNA FOR THE PURPOSE OF CIVILIAN OVERSIGHT IN THE MANAGEMENT OF AN GARDA SÍOCHÁNA, AND BODIES TO BE KNOWN AS PÁIRTNÉIREACHTAÍ PÓILÍNEACHTA PHOBAIL, OR IN THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE, COMMUNITY POLICING PARTNERSHIPS, FOR THE PURPOSE OF FOSTERING LOCAL CO-OPERATION AND HOLDING AN GARDA SÍOCHÁNA ACCOUNTABLE TO THE COMMUNITIES THEY SERVE.
It is a pity that the amendment, which outlined the various parts of the jigsaw, was not taken on board. Perhaps the House will be able to return to this matter to ensure that an Garda Síochána is accountable at the lowest possible level to the communities it serves. It is important that all communities feel they can play as big a role as possible in ensuring they are policed properly. Not only should an Garda Síochána be responsive to their needs, but they should also be responsive to the needs of an Garda Síochána when required.