CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY
The need for the Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence to discuss the fact that there is no legislation or regulations in place to facilitate the orderly transfer of personnel bilaterally between the Garda Síochána and the Police Service of Northern Ireland and the absence of any guarantee (or written provision) that for the personnel who do opt to transfer can be assured that they can resume their positions and employment with an Garda Síochána having completed their service.
Senator Cait Keane
Response by Alan Shatter TD, Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence on Tuesday 18 June 2013
Cathaoirleach, I would like to thank Senator Keane for raising this issue.
On 29th April 2002, the Irish and British Governments signed an Agreement on Police Co-operation providing a framework for the implementation of certain Patten recommendations on enhanced police co-operation.
I am pleased to inform the House that all of the necessary administrative and legislative measures are in place to allow for the implementation of these recommendations. The legislative measures were set out in the Garda Síochána (Police Co-operation) Act 2003 which in turn was incorporated into the Garda Síochána Act, 2005.
It is worth recalling that Article 1 of the recommendations deals with Lateral entry, Article 2 deals with secondments with police powers and Article 5 deals with personnel exchanges without police powers.
Regulations under the Act were required to provide for lateral entry and these are now in place. Regulations were not required for secondments and personnel exchanges.
The implementation of these Articles continues to be a key measure towards improving the level of cross-community confidence in the impartiality of the criminal justice system.
It was proposed that personnel provisions of Intergovernmental agreement would take place on an incremental basis, as follows:
· commencing with personnel exchanges without police powers,
· then secondments with police powers,
· lateral entry.
On 21 February, 2005 the Garda Commissioner and the Chief Constable of the PSNI signed protocols which provide for the implementation of a programme of Personnel Exchanges and Secondments between An Garda Síochána and the Police Service of Northern Ireland. These protocols set out a framework for the operation of both personnel exchanges and secondments.
In practice exchanges take place for period of between 1 and 2 months, without the exercise of police powers in the host jurisdiction.
Eighty nine members of An Garda Síochána and seventy six members of the Police Service of Northern Ireland have taken part in exchanges programmes under the auspices of the protocols These programmes have been very successful, with exchanges taking place across the whole spectrum of policing areas including training, human resources, general operational policing and specialist areas.
Outside the ambit of the formal agreement, training and education exchanges have also taken place between the Garda College and the PSNI in a number of areas including: exchange of Teacher/Trainers; Senior Investigation Officers Course; Public Order Training; Firearms Instructors Course; and a joint Diversity Training programme took place involving personnel in the Border Division and the PSNI.
Following on from discussions between An Garda Síochána and the Police Service of Northern Ireland each exchange is now concluded with a comprehensive debriefing session, involving representatives of both organisations and each participant in that particular exchange.
The key difference between personnel exchanges and secondments is that members of either force who are seconded to the other force exercise full police powers in the host jurisdiction.
Under Section 54 of the Garda Síochána Act 2005, the Commissioner may, on application by a member of An Garda Síochána, arrange with the Chief Constable for the member’s secondment to the PSNI for a period not exceeding three years. As Senator Keane has already stated, one Garda Superintendent was seconded to the PSNI from An Garda Síochána for a period on 18 months in March 2010. I understand that this was a very successful secondment. I very much hope that there will be further such secondments, although they are, of course, subject to the operational exigencies of the two police services. That said, it is important that the Pattern recommendations are fully implemented and I know that the Garda Commissioner is very committed to building on and enhancing cross-border co-operation across all aspects of policing.
I must stress at this stage that any member of the Garda Síochána who participates in an exchange programme or who takes up a secondment position with the PSNI, does so in the full knowledge that their employment status within the Garda Síochána remains completely intact.
Turning to the issue of lateral entry, the Inter-Governmental Agreement obliged both Governments to introduce the necessary administrative and legislative measures to enable members of one force to apply for posts at ranks of above Inspector level in the other force. Section 52 of the Garda Síochána Acts 2005-2007 provides for the implementation of these provisions for the appointments of members of the PSNI to ranks above Inspector level in the Garda Síochána.
In 2012, I introduced regulations – namely the Garda Síochána Act 2005 (Police Service of Northern Ireland Appointments) Regulations 2012 and the Garda Síochána Act 2005 (Section 52) Regulations 2012 - to give legal effect to the provisions mentioned above.
By way of letter dated 10th September 2012, the Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland was notified of the holding of promotion competitions for the ranks of Superintendent and Chief Superintendent in An Garda Síochána. Expressions of interest from members of the Police Service of Northern Ireland were received and subsequently two briefing sessions were held at the Garda College Templemore, in September 2012. The appointments from this competition have been made and on this occasion did not include any members of the PSNI.
The issue of pension transfer is a particularly difficult issue that applies to all public sector workers moving between different jurisdictions. There is no general provision for a transfer of pension benefit from one state to another. In the case of lateral entry, where a member of An Garda Síochána resigns their position to join the PSNI (or vice versa), that member will retain their pension entitlements which, in the case of the Garda Síochána, would be due at age 60 and commence new pension payments with the PSNI.
I should also point out there are certain circumstances where a member of the Garda Síochána who resigns from the force to take up employment with another police force or indeed in the private sector, may apply to the Commissioner to be re-instated. In doing so, that person must be able to show that the additional experience and skill set, which was acquired outside the force, will be of benefit to the force in the future.
I have developed a close working relationship with my Northern Ireland counterpart, Minister David Ford, which is of great benefit in addressing matters of mutual concern and enhancing effective police and criminal justice co-operation. We and our officials will continue to address the operation of these personnel transfer and exchange arrangements in order to ensure that they can be made as beneficial as is possible to the two police services and, indeed, to policing on this island.
In summary therefore and to address the points raised by the Senator, I would like to re-iterate that there are mechanisms in place for the orderly transfer of members, either permanently or temporarily, between the PSNI and the Garda Síochána and I look forward to building upon the progress which has been made in this regard.
18 June 2013