The first Irish Policing Authority was established in January 2016 to "promote public trust and confidence in policing and help shape policing services to meet the challenges of a modern Ireland". The person entrusted to lead the independent Authority was Josephine Feehily. Commenting on her appointment, Minister for Justice and Equality Frances Fitzgerald TD noted that Ms Feehily would "bring a wealth of experience and competences to her new independent role of leading the public oversight of policing in Ireland".
A native of Ferrybridge in Clarina, County Limerick and a graduate of the National College of Ireland and Trinity College Dublin, Josephine Feehily's career in the public service has been long and distinguished. Having worked in a range of positions in the Department of Social Welfare and the Pensions Board, she joined the Revenue Commissioners in 1993 at assistant secretary level with responsibility for human resources and corporate management and later served as Accountant General. In 1998, she was appointed as one of the three Revenue Commissioners with executive responsibility for policy and legislation, tax collection, strategy and organisation development, the Large Cases Division and the Customs Service. In 2008, she became the first female chairperson of Revenue, a role she fulfilled with distinction until January 2015.
Josephine Feehily led Revenue through some of the most challenging economic conditions ever faced by the State. Revenue's contribution to fiscal consolidation was critical during these turbulent times, and under her leadership, the organisation emerged as one of the leading tax administrations in the world. During her tenure, the Irish tax system and the manner in which it was administered scored consistently highly in the PWC/World Bank international benchmarking report. In her final year as head of Revenue, she oversaw the administration of the Local Property Tax, a project that has been cited by commentators as one of the world's most successful tax implementations.
In 2011, Josephine Feehily was elected chair of the World Customs Organisation (WCO), one of the largest global intergovernmental organisations. With 179 member states, the WCO is an alliance that shapes international customs policy and trade. According to the then Minister for Finance, Michael Noonan TD, her election as chair was "an honour for Ireland and very welcome news in the context of the Government's approach to international engagement. Ms Feehily was proposed for this position by her European colleagues, and her success is a reflection of the regard in which the Revenue's Customs Service and Josephine Feehily are held in the international customs community." In November 2012, Josephine Feehily was selected to chair the OECD Forum for Tax Administration. She was the first individual to chair simultaneously both organisations and fulfilled the roles with typical efficiency at a time when key international bodies, including the G20, OECD and EU, were paying particular attention to global tax and trade issues.
The University of Limerick has been very fortunate to have worked closely with Josephine Feehily over the years. The Bachelor of Arts in Applied Taxation and Diploma in Applied Taxation are core programmes for Revenue employees and are delivered by both UL academic staff and senior Revenue officials. During her time as head of Revenue, Feehily was a strong supporter of UL and Revenue's innovative educational partnership, which began in 2004 in the context of UL's mission of developing partnerships with the public sector. Furthermore, by chairing problem-based learning sessions, which form part of the examination process of the degree programme, Josephine Feehily played a direct, active role in the delivery of the BA in Applied Taxation. She also delivered a number of presentations on the role of tax administration to students on the Master of Taxation.
The relationship between UL and Revenue that began in 2004 was renewed in 2014 on Saint Valentine's Day, which prompted both parties to remark on the appropriateness of the timing for a renewal of their vows! As of January 2016, 898 Revenue employees have graduated from the diploma and degree programmes.
UL's relationship with Josephine Feehily and the Revenue Commissioners was not confined to the applied taxation programmes. In 2010, the tenth European Conference on eGovernment was hosted at the University of Limerick by the National Centre for Taxation Studies in conjunction with Revenue. Josephine Feehily co-chaired the conference with UL and delivered the keynote speech on the Irish tax system. At the opening of the conference, she spoke about the importance of online delivery and the need "to pay a lot of attention to ensuring that these services are fast, efficient, user-friendly, comprehensive and secure". With Revenue's online ROS system, in particular, receiving a number of awards and accolades in recent years, Ireland is now recognised by academics and governments across Europe as a leader in the area of eGovernment.
Josephine Feehily's vast managerial experience and leadership qualities will be put to good use in her new role as chair of the Policing Authority. All of us at the University of Limerick wish her well in this new challenge. We thank her for her support of the partnership between the University and Revenue, and we look forward to continuing our working relationship with her in the future.