Thursday, 25 May 1972
Dáil Eireann Debate
Mr. Cooney: asked the Minister for Justice if his attention has been drawn to a report (details supplied) that there is disquiet among many officers of the Garda Síochána concerning the structure and administration of the force; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Mr. Enright: asked the Minister for Justice if his attention has been drawn to a report (details supplied) relating to unrest among leading members of the Garda Síochána; if he will state (a) whether he or officials of his Department have received any deputation from the chief superintendent or the superintendents of the Garda and (b) whether he has proposals for the reorganisation of the force.
The allegedly secret meetings of superintendents and chief superintendents last November and December were normal, private meetings held by these officers under the auspices of their Representative Body. As is to be expected, they had some claims to put forward and these claims are being dealt with under the Conciliation and Arbitration Scheme, which applies to these officers as well as to members of lower rank.
It is untrue that my Department had refused or failed to meet them for 18 months to discuss a pay claim—the fact is that their pay claim was only being presented for the first time when these meetings were being held. It is likewise untrue that they have called for a complete reorganisation of the  force. Much less have they called for it as a matter both necessary and compelling. What they did say on the subject of reorganisation is of course confidential, but I can say that it did not even remotely resemble what was alleged.
As regards the organisation of the force, I think it can be said that, in practically continuous negotiation for over a year now between my Department and the elected representatives of the Garda, we have disposed satisfactorily of virtually all of what I might call the bread-and-butter issues. These negotiations have made very heavy demands on the time not only of my Department's officials but of the time of the representatives of the various ranks in the force. Very shortly, however, with the bread-and-butter issues substantially settled, it is expected that there can be a move forward to discussion of matters of long-term import, such as organisation, recruitment policies, promotion and so forth. In that context, any views or ideas I myself might have about such matters, including the organisation of the force. I would discuss on a confidential basis with the Commissioner and his senior officers, and the views of the elected representatives of the various ranks would likewise be sought.
Mr. Cooney: Is there any machinery whereby senior officers of the rank of superintendent and chief superintendent may make their professional views known to the Minister as to the desirability of reorganisation or changes?
Mr. O'Malley: There is. In fact, there are two methods. Apart from submitting their views to the Commissioner, which, of course, they are entitled to do, they can convey their views to me through my officials at conciliation and arbitration scheme meetings and at the new consultative council which is designed for informal discussion and exchange of views and which is working out well in that way.
Mr. Enright: asked the Minister for Justice with regard to promotion to (a) sergeant, (b) inspector, (c) superintendent and (d) chief superintendent within the Garda force if he will state (i) the type of examination held, (ii) the personnel of the interview boards and their qualifications, (iii) to whom the reports on the examinations and interviews are submitted, (iv) whether successful candidates are placed on a panel in order of merit and (v) whether he has any power to deviate from this panel.
Mr. O'Malley: As I have stated in reply to previous Parliamentary Questions, promotions up to and including the rank of inspector are made by the Commissioner. The appointment of superintendents and officers of higher ranks is, by law, a matter for the Government.
The Garda Síochána (Promotion) Regulations, 1960, as amended by the Garda Síochána (Promotion) Regulations, 1962, 1966 and 1970 govern promotions up to and including the rank of inspector. These are published Statutory Instruments. Where the regulations refer to “selection” of eligible candidates the selection is by interview boards.
Interview boards are appointed by the Commissioner and consist of Garda officers. In the case of promotion from garda to sergeant, the board consists of a chief superintendent and two superintendents. Where the promotion is at a higher level, the interview board personnel are also of higher rank. With the obvious exception of cases where the Commissioner himself sits on the board, the board reports to the Commissioner.Successful candidates are placed on a panel in order of merit.
I would not be prepared to express a legal opinion on the question whether the Commissioner has power to deviate from the panel recommended by the board, in relation to promotion up to the rank of inspector, but as far as superintendent and members of higher rank are concerned, it is clear that the Government, as the appointing authority, are allowed complete discretion. Nevertheless, the statistics  which I quoted and the other details which I supplied in this House on 8th February, 1972, Col. 1335, show that all Governments over the last 30 years have almost invariably appointed candidates recommended to them.
Mr. O'Malley: I do not feel there is any great necessity for it at the moment. It is a very major matter which would have to have a great deal of consideration. I am not prepared to express an opinion on my feet here now.
Mr. O'Malley: I believe substantially they do. So far as I can remember Conroy did not make any recommendations of a radical nature in relation to promotion. As far as I can remember I think there was a recommendation of better assessment facilities but outside of that I do not think there were any radical changes in what Conroy recommended at that point.
Mr. Cooney: Is the Minister aware that there is a considerable amount of dissatisfaction in regard to promotion and that many members feel that the procedure and the machinery is being bypassed and that many promotions are being made for considerations other than purely police considerations?
Mr. O'Malley: I can assure the Deputy that that most positively is not so and I think he will recall that in this House on 8th February, 1972, I offered to show, in confidence, to Deputy Fitzpatrick of Fine Gael the promotion  lists for the last two years and to show that every man on those lists, was in fact, promoted.
Mr. O'Malley: I would not agree that there is disquiet but I think that some people are dissatisfied because they did not get promotion themselves and they tend, as I suppose is natural and human, to attribute their own failure to get promotion to some ulterior motive. I can assure the House that there is no such situation.
Dr. O'Donovan: Does the system of promotion to chief superintendent make any provision whatever for the educational background of the people who are promoted? I have a serious reason for asking this question. It bears no relationship to any recent promotion.
Mr. O'Malley: The most important part of the promotion procedure is a very lengthy and detailed interview of the candidates for promotion to chief superintendent by three very senior officers—the Commissioner and two Deputy Commissioners—I am quite sure that one of the factors that would be taken into account would be any particular educational qualification of the candidate.
Mr. O'Malley: The number recruited since February is 290 but I think I should point out that this figure has very little relevance to the recruiting campaign. On the one hand, over half of them had applied before that campaign began. On the other hand, the results of the recruitment campaign have not as yet been reflected in actual recruitments to any appreciable extent because of the time-lag caused by entrance examinations and the fact that only a certain number can be called for training at the one time.
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