Dermot Gallagher, former secretary general at the department of foreign affairs, has been appointed as the new chairman of the Garda Síochána Ombuudsman Commission.

Gallagher replaces Justice Kevin Haugh, who died unexpectedly last week.

Kevin Haugh (photo courtesy Ombudsman Commission)
Kevin Haugh (photo courtesy Ombudsman Commission)

The government does not usually react with such speed when high positions fall vacant, but in this case, it was prepared. The judge had told the cabinet last Autumn that he intended to leave the commission and return to the bench. His sudden death moved the appointment forward a few months.

Only time will tell what Gallagher makes of his new job, but the omens are not good. When Haugh asked to be removed from the commission last September, there were rumours that he was dissatisfied with the resources given to the watchdog.

The position worsened after the budget, which cut the commission budget by 5%.

In November, legal affairs editor Carol Coulter, noting the schedule for Kevin Haugh’s departure, wrote that it would be ‘interesting to see whether the new chairman will exhibit the independence and determined opposition to wrongdoing in the Garda Síochána shown by the judge.’

It remains to be seen whether the career civil servant lives up to his predecessor’s high standards.

By Gerard Cunningham

Gerard Cunningham occupies his time working as a journalist, writer, sub-editor, blogger and podcaster, yet still finds himself underemployed.