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Ó Snodaigh opposes appointment of Gallagher as Chairperson of Garda Ombudsman Commission

5 March, 2009 - by Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD

Sinn Féin Justice Spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has opposed a motion in the Dáil this morning which recommends the appointment of Mr. Dermot Gallagher to the position of Chair of the Garda Ombudsman Commission. Deputy Ó Snodaigh made clear that his opposition to the appointment of Mr. Gallagher was not personal but based on the fact that he is a very recently retired high level civil servant and unsuitable for a role of scrutinizer of other servants of the state.

Speaking in the Dáil Deputy Ó Snodaigh said, "Unfortunately I have to oppose this motion which recommends the appointment of Mr. Dermot Gallagher to the position of Chair of the Garda Ombudsman Commission. I want to be clear my opposition is not personal but rather based on the general criteria for suitability that apply and the process of selection followed both of which are insufficient given the importance of the post.

"The primary purpose of the Garda Ombudsman may be to investigate individual complaints against individual members of An Garda Síochána but a further important objective is ultimately to restore public confidence in the Gardaí as a whole. For this to be achieved the public must have confidence in the Ombudsman Commission itself. It must be, and be seen to be, absolutely independent. And for that reason I question whether a very recently retired high level civil servant could ever command the optimum confidence of the public in a role as independent scrutinizer of other servants of the state.

"In the Six Counties appointments like this one must involve a transparent, open and merit based recruitment process and be subject to prior scrutiny by a panel that is independent of the relevant government department. Last week I asked the Minister by way of a parliamentary question whether he agreed that similar principles should underpin key appointment processes here. The Minister flatly rejected my proposal and showed himself to be out of touch from prevailing public opinions and in denial as to the systems that give rise to them. Whether fairly in some instances, or unfairly in others, the public do associate many government appointments with cronyism and jobs for the boys. Countless emails, letters and phone calls to my office are testament to that fact. The source of this suspicion is systemic and it must be addressed.

"This appointment can't be divorced from the wider context of economic recession either. As I said if the Ombudsman Commission is to restore confidence in Gardaí then the public must have confidence in it. The bulk of people will be looking at this appointment against their own background of job losses and income cuts.

"While Mr. Gallagher has quite kindly offered to take just €90,000 of the €150,000 salary offered this must be put into context. What we will be seeing is the appointment of a high earner who on recently retiring from his position as a civil servant received a handsome pay-off of €400,000 and an annual pension of €126,000. He has also just gotten the job of chair of UCD's Governing Authority in addition and who is now being given the job of chief Garda on top of everything else. Whether you like it or not this all adds to the public perception of privilege, protection and perks for the boys.

"The Garda Ombudsman Commission's scarcity of resources and its performance to date have not yet garnered the confidence of the public. Suspicion around the appointment of its members is something it simply cannot afford." ENDS

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