Interim Garda Commissioner O’Sullivan to remain on in post for months

Temporary head of force making major changes before applying for top job

Interim Garda Commissioner Noirín O’Sullivan looks set to remain in that post for most of the remainder of the year before it is filled on a permanent basis.

The Irish Times understands from Government sources that the position will not be advertised until late July at the earliest. A period of several weeks will then be allotted for interested parties to lodge their applications.

A shortlist of candidates will be drawn up over several weeks before interviews are held to decide who replaces Martin Callinan. He left on March 25th.

The process from the time the advertisement is placed at home and internationally will take at least two months, and possibly much longer, according to sources familiar with high-level appointments.


High-level appointment

Previously the appointment of a Garda commissioner has been made by government.

The lack of precedent in appointing a commissioner by way of an open competition means the process will now take longer than similar senior appointments across the public service.

It is unclear, for example, whether an independent interview panel will make the appointment or if it will forward a shortlist of leading candidates to Cabinet.

If the Cabinet is part of the process, it may count against Ms O’Sullivan.

Labour is widely seen as favouring the appointment of a candidate from outside the force to show it is serious about Garda reform rather than being seen to move around officers who have already served for long periods.

Ms O’Sullivan has been keen to put her personal stamp on the force in recent weeks, making a large number of changes.

She has transferred senior officers out of key posts and is bringing her choices in to head up the Garda Press Office, Special Detective Unit, Garda National Drugs Unit, not to mention a large number of other transfers down the line.

The woman who was deputy commissioner when Mr Callinan departed is seen as the front-runner from within the Garda to take the top job. But she will face competition from Garda officers, officers from other jurisdictions and some civilian candidates from Ireland.

Ms O’Sullivan suffered a setback last week when a fresh row between the Garda and Garda Ombudsman emerged over how the scene of a fatal road traffic incident was handled. The collision occurred as a Garda car was following the vehicle that would crash and Ombudsman staff were “livid” that the Garda examined the scene and removed the car before the case was referred to it, as protocol dictates.

Maurice McCabe dispute Ms O'Sullivan was also forced to clarify her evidence to the Oireachtas Committee on Justice when it emerged senior officers were not in contact daily offering support to whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe.

In her favour it must be said that sources close to Sgt McCabe said he was very happy when she later contacted him and set up a meeting planned for tomorrow between him and Asst Commissioner Kieran Kenny.

Conor Lally

Conor Lally

Conor Lally is Security and Crime Editor of The Irish Times