Next Garda commissioner to be allowed appoint their own team

Department of Justice says the scale of reform required in the force justifies the move

The Policing Authority is to formulate the process to recruit the next Garda commissioner. The process will then be run by the Public Appointments Service.

The Policing Authority is to formulate the process to recruit the next Garda commissioner. The process will then be run by the Public Appointments Service.


The next Garda commissioner will be allowed to hire their own team to work with them in the same way Government ministers are entitled to make political appointments.

The process of finding the next permanent head of the Garda to replace Nóirín O’Sullivan, who departed last September, is unlikely to be concluded until the autumn.

The Cabinet agreed in December to advertise the position of the commissioner early in the new year at a “salary span” of €200,000-€250,000 on a five-year contract, age permitting.

The Department of Justice has drawn up an advice document for Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and his Cabinet in which the process of recruiting the next commissioner is mapped out.

It says that because so much reform was required in the Garda at present, potential candidates would very likely need assurances that they could appoint their own team around them. These would likely be hired on a contract basis, the department’s advice to Government states.

The move would mean that, for the first time, Garda commissioners would enjoy the same power as Cabinet ministers in appointing their own staff. This is likely to prove contentious for many within the Garda force. Promotions and appointments have long been regarded as open to favouritism and nepotism in the Garda.

Reforms have been introduced in recent years to make the process more independent and any exemption granted to the next Garda commissioner to hand-pick a team would likely been seen as a double standard.

It was not immediately clear whether the power to appoint a team, without a recruitment or promotions process, would be granted to external candidates only or to a internal candidate should they become the next commissioner.

The recruitment competition to fill the vacancy will be open to current Garda members as well as foreign candidates. Candidates from Ireland or abroad with no policing experience will also be considered.

Recruitment process

In a new move, the Policing Authority will formulate the recruitment process, which will then be run by the Public Appointments Service. The authority and Government will both be represented on the interview panel.

When a preferred candidate is identified, that person’s name will be considered by the authority for recommendation to Government, which will accept or reject the person for appointment.

It an internal Garda candidate wins the process their appointment would likely take place in August. However, for an outside candidate a security check would be required and possibly a work permit.

Those additional steps in the process would mean the next commissioner would be appointed next September at the earliest.

That would mean the commissioner would be appointed around the same time the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland reports to Government after a year-long review process.

The commission had previously warned that the new Garda commissioner,should not begin until its work was concluded next September.

Chaired by Seattle police chief Kathleen O’Toole, the commission said the changes it might recommend could be so far-reaching that a job specification could not even been drawn up for the recruitment process until after its review was completed.

However, it has been liaising with the Policing Authority of late.

Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan believes the commission can help shape the recruitment process even if its final report is now due for almost 10 months.

Next Garda commissioner: leading internal candidates

Deputy Commissioner John Tuomey

Tuomey is one of two Garda officers at deputy commissioner level.

Dónall Ó Cualáin is the other and he is now acting Garda Commissioner. However, Ó Cualáin has ruled himself out of the race to fill the current vacancy.

That leaves Tuomey as the most senior Garda member in the running to fill the vacancy created by Nóirín O’Sullivan’s departure in September.

Having been a Garda member since 1983 he has worked on traffic policing and in continuing professional development at the Garda College in Templemore.

As he rose through the ranks he spent six years in Dublin, in the west of the city and the inner city.

In 2010, he was appointed assistant commissioner for traffic in 2010; switching 18 months later to assistant commissioner for policing in Dublin.

After 3½ years in that job he was promoted into his current post: deputy commissioner for policing and security.

Assistant Commissioner John O’Driscoll

O’Driscoll joined the Garda two years before Tuomey. He has spent almost his entire career at the coalface of crime-fighting. Aside from relatively brief periods, immediately after promotion, in Co Kildare and Co Mayo, he has worked in Dublin.

He has held positions from the time he was a sergeant in community relations and also worked for above five years, to 2009, as head of the Garda National Immigration Bureau.

But most of his roles have been in the organised crime area. As a young garda he was part of the crime task force for Dublin and more recently he was appointed head of the Garda National Drug Unit in 2014, and later the head of the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation, the serious crimes squad.

In 2016, he was appointed to assistant commissioner level and is in charge of national support services, including all of the specialist units in the Garda.

Assistant Commissioner Pat Leahy

Leahy, like O’Driscoll, has appeared in the media regularly of late in relation to the fight against organised crime – especially the Kinahan-Hutch feud – in Dublin. He is currently the assistant commissioner in charge of policing in the Dublin region.

He has been a Garda since 1982 and aside from a two-year period as superintendent in Castlebar, Co Mayo, he has been Dublin-based for most of his career.

Many years of his work in the capital have been in the north- and south-inner-city divisions.

Leahy has also gained a lot of experience internationally working in various short-term posts with the United Nations.

Two of those recent postings have been as head of mission with two Irish Aid police-reform programmes, in Uganda in 2010 and in Malawi in 2012.