That Dáil Éireann, noting that the Government on 8th May, 2018, nominated Mr. Patrick Sullivan for appointment by the President, as a member of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission, recommends, pursuant to section 65(1)(b) of the Garda Síochána Act 2005, that Mr. Patrick Sullivan be appointed by the President to be a member of the Commission.
The appointment of members of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission, GSOC, is governed by the provisions of the Garda Síochána Act 2005, which requires the Government to satisfy itself that a person to be nominated for appointment has the appropriate experience, qualifications, training or expertise for appointment. The Act also provides that a member of GSOC is appointed by the President following the nomination by the Government and the passage of resolutions by both Houses of the Oireachtas recommending the appointment. In this regard the Government nominated Mr. Patrick Sullivan at its meeting on 8 May and I am pleased to formally recommend to the House that Members approve Mr. Patrick Sullivan for appointment by the President to be a member of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission. Mr. Sullivan was recommended by the Public Appointments Service as the best qualified candidate for the position. This followed an independent, international competition organised by the Public Appointments Service.
I can assure the House that Mr. Sullivan brings with him a wealth of experience from his work with various federal agencies in the United States. The expertise he has gained in a career which spans over 40 years in federal law enforcement will bring a different perspective to the excellent work of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission. The House will agree that it is vital that the public has strong confidence in the Garda Síochána and its system of oversight. I believe that Mr. Sullivan’s vast experience in oversight within federal agencies in the US will only serve to enhance the existing confidence in GSOC’s role of investigating complaints against members of our police service.
His most recent position as assistant inspector general for investigations in the Environmental Protection Agency's Office of Inspector General, which required the supervision of both criminal and administrative investigative cases, equips him very well for the position. The role also required Mr. Sullivan’s appearance before both congressional and Senate committees to provide testimony into the actions taken by Environmental Protection Agency staff. I know that the Joint Committee on Justice and Equality had hoped to have the opportunity to hear from Mr. Sullivan prior to his appointment. However, I understand that he was unavailable due to commitments to his current employers in the US. Nevertheless, I hope that the committee will have an opportunity to hear from Mr. Sullivan in due course. Prior to holding this role, Mr. Sullivan was deputy assistant director of the Transportation Security Administration's Federal Air Marshal Service under the Department of Homeland Security and assistant director of the Government Accountability Office's office of special investigations.
In his 23 years as a special agent in the Secret Service, Mr. Sullivan had a variety of high-profile assignments, which included assignments in the counterfeit division, presidential protection division, anti-smuggling unit and organised crime strike force. These are, I am sure the House will agree, impressive credentials, and I have every confidence that the work of GSOC will be strengthened by Mr. Sullivan's presence.
The background to his nomination as a member of GSOC arises from the resignation of Mr. Mark Toland last October to take up the position of chief inspector with the Garda Síochána Inspectorate. Mr. Toland's term of office with GSOC was due to last until 11 December 2020. Under the provisions of the Garda Síochána Act 2005, a person appointed to replace a member of the commission holds office for the remainder of the term of the person being replaced. Mr. Sullivan's term of office, therefore, will expire in December 2020. I acknowledge the contribution that Mr. Toland made as commissioner to GSOC during his time there. He brought more than 30 years' experience gained with the UK Metropolitan Police Service. This extensive knowledge of policing served him well while sitting on GSOC. His policing expertise and experience in GSOC can only serve to benefit the Garda Síochána Inspectorate.
The Government nominated Mr. Sullivan at its meeting on 8 May. The appointment arose following Mr. Toland's resignation last October. Following this, I informed the Government on 5 December of my decision to fill the vacancy by way of an open competition conducted by the Public Appointments Service. This preference was taken with a view to ensuring the best candidate would be identified from an international field of suitably qualified candidates.
It is important to recognise the contribution that GSOC makes to policing in the State. The commission has been operating now for more than ten years and has grown in stature during that time as has its reputation for independence and fairness. This is in no small part due to the dedication and drive of the current commission under its chairperson, Ms Justice Mary Ellen Ring, and commissioner Kieran Fitzgerald. Their vision for GSOC's policing oversight reaches into the future, seeking to extend its remit and, accordingly, its size. The dedication and commitment of its staff are unquestionable. In the ten years of its existence, the commission's role has been expanded somewhat, for example, by bringing complaints against the Garda Commissioner within its remit. In addition, GSOC is now a designated body to which members of the police service can make protected disclosures. At the same time, significant changes have been made to legislation governing the Garda. In particular, the establishment of the Policing Authority has created a public forum where the Garda Commissioner can be asked about matters related to policing services.
These are welcome developments. No one would suggest that a service such as the Garda Síochána, which can invoke extensive powers, should not be fully and openly accountable for how it uses these powers. The Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland is another example of the commitment the Government has undertaken to review the functioning of An Garda Síochána. With regard to its remit and purpose, the commission has been tasked with reshaping the legislative landscape in which An Garda Síochána operates. The commission members bring a wealth of experience and dedication to their task and they are undertaking an ambitious work programme with alacrity. Their report, which will be of huge significance, is due in September. This major publication should provide a framework for a modern, professional policing service, which will protect and defend the community and be subject to appropriate and robust accountability.
GSOC recently made proposals for legislative changes to enable it to function more effectively and efficiently. These are being considered by my officials but I am conscious that any changes to the commission should align with the recommendations of the Commission on the Future of Policing. GSOC has been engaging with the commission and I will take care to ensure appropriate alignment
GSOC has also sought additional staffing resources and has submitted a business proposal to my Department. My officials are liaising with the agency to ensure a clear business case can be put to the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. The proposal contains a focus on medium and long-term planning and demonstrates the commitment of the current commission to ensure it is properly equipped now and into the future. I assure the House that I am supportive of the broad thrust of the business case and supportive of the valuable work undertaken by the commission.
This Government and I have given serious consideration to providing GSOC with the resources it needs to maintain high standards of policing oversight. I would like to take this opportunity to restate that commitment. GSOC will be fully supported in its role, and will be given all the tools needed to continue to perform at the high level it has continuously striven to maintain over the years.
GSOC has a critical role to play in the architecture of policing in the State. Its independence is the guarantee to the public that complaints against members of the Garda will be investigated "without fear or favour". My predecessors and I have made the point many times in the House that there will be no interference with GSOC investigations, despite occasional calls for some form of ministerial or governmental intervention.
Public confidence in GSOC will be bolstered with Mr. Sullivan's appointment. Oversight in public administration is nothing new to him, and the administration of law enforcement is also not unfamiliar territory to him. That is what marked him out as the preferred choice to be a member of the commission. The international nature of his knowledge and experience can only serve to benefit GSOC in policing oversight.
I hope the House will join me in welcoming Mr. Sullivan and wishing him success in his new role as a commissioner. On behalf of the Government, I am pleased to commend the motion to the House.