That Dáil Éireann, noting that, in order to fill a vacancy caused by the resignation of Mr. Simon O'Brien as the chairperson of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission, the Government on 30th June, 2015 nominated Judge Mary Ellen Ring for appointment by the President to be a member of the Ombudsman Commission and to be its chairperson, recommends, pursuant to section 65(1)(b) of the Garda Síochána Act 2005, that she be appointed by the President to be a member and to be chairperson of the Ombudsman Commission.
The Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission, GSOC, plays an important role in developing and maintaining public confidence in An Garda Síochána. An Garda Síochána provides an excellent policing service for the people. As a society, we look to it to create and maintain an environment in which we can go about our daily lives free from threats of criminality. Where such criminality arises, we look to An Garda Síochána to investigate and bring the perpetrators to justice. To this end, the Garda has been given certain powers. These must be exercised in a lawful and proportionate manner. Where there is a question about whether it has used those powers properly, it must be held to account. This is a fundamental principle of the exercise of any power, namely, accountability.
It is vital we fully address any allegation of Garda misconduct or wrongdoing in the interests of maintaining public confidence in the Garda and protecting the professional standards of the overwhelming majority of dedicated and conscientious members of the force. To ensure the public can have full confidence in the Garda, a system of oversight is provided by GSOC. This commission is a vital part of our policing infrastructure. It was set up under the Garda Síochána Act 2005 to provide an independent system for receiving complaints and dealing with allegations of Garda misconduct. Its purpose is to promote public confidence in the process for resolving these complaints or allegations.
Deputies will be aware that I recently laid the 2014 annual report of GSOC before the Houses. It was a challenging year for GSOC and the subject of a great deal of political and media commentary and some controversy. Notwithstanding that, the year was a busy one for GSOC. It received 11% more complaints and concluded 8% more cases than in 2013. The report stated there was a marked improvement in efficiency and in dialogue and co-operation with the Garda. This suggests the protocols that were put in place in 2013 have been helpful in terms of the working relationship between GSOC and the Garda Commissioner and Garda.
Reform in the criminal justice area is a priority for the Government. The Garda Síochána (Amendment) Act 2015 has expanded the remit and powers of GSOC, including by bringing the Garda Commissioner within the scope of its investigative powers. The Act also expanded the time within which persons can bring complaints to the commission. Further changes are contained in the Bill to establish the policing authority, which has passed all Stages in the Seanad and will be before the Dáil as soon as I can get some time in the House.
Turning to the Government's nominee for chairperson of GSOC, Ms Justice Mary Ellen Ring was appointed a judge of the High Court by the President on 9 July 2015. Her swearing-in ceremony before the Supreme Court took place on 13 July. Ms Justice Ring's extensive experience as a practising barrister and a judge of the Circuit Court make her well qualified for the position of chairperson of the ombudsman commission. She has also served in positions on the National Crime Council, was chair of the Irish Women Lawyers Association, IWLA, and has been a member of the Irish Penal Reform Trust and the Irish Council for Civil Liberties, ICCL. Ms Justice Ring will work alongside the other members of the ombudsman commission, Ms Carmel Foley and Mr. Kieran Fitzgerald, and GSOC's professional and administrative staff. The combination of skills and experience the three commissioners have will ensure strong and effective leadership within GSOC and Ms Justice Ring will make an excellent chairperson.
I thank the committee for its work yesterday on this matter. I explained to it that Ms Justice Ring would serve out the remainder of Mr. Simon O'Brien's term until December of next year, at which point the position will be advertised again. Of course, she would be eligible. I commend the motion to the House.