Gardai asked to apply for senior RUC post


Senior Garda officers have been invited to apply for the post of Assistant Chief Constable in the RUC. The move is unique in the history of both forces.

Invitations to apply for the post were forwarded to Garda superintendents and chief superintendents in the last two days. The move is part of the process of reorganisation within the RUC that involves the voluntary retirement of officers and an increase in the number of Catholics and women in the force. The Police Authority of Northern Ireland wrote to the Garda Commissioner, Mr Pat Byrne, last week indicating that it wished to seek applicants from the ranks of the Garda Siochana with suitable operational and management skills for the post of Assistant Chief Constable (ACC). The rank is equivalent to Assistant Commissioner in the Garda, although the RUC position is better paid and includes a £2,350 sterling bonus.

A Police Authority spokesman said: "The authority has written to Commissioner Byrne circulating details of the post. This is the first time we have done this. It is in line with the proposals in the Patten report recommending the recruitment of officers from the Garda and mainland forces."

The applications forwarded to senior gardai include a declaration that the RUC is an equal opportunities employer under Northern Ireland legislation and as "Roman Catholics and women are under-represented" applications from these categories "`are particularly welcome". As part of the reorganisation process, it is expected there will be greater interaction between the two forces with exchanges and the possibility of cross-recruitment. Next year, under the terms of the Northern Ireland Policing Act, the RUC will be renamed the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI).

NIO sources were recently reported as saying they hoped that the filling of at least one post with a senior officer from the Garda Siochana would encourage more Catholics to join the police in the North.

There are expected to be considerable gaps in the police management structure in Northern Ireland in the coming years as senior officers take advantage of the exit payments and seek early retirement.

At least four assistant chief constable jobs are expected to be vacated. A further nine divisional commanders, who hold the equivalent rank of Garda chief superintendent, are understood to be preparing to leave. The anti-Belfast Agreement Ulster Unionist, Mr Jeffrey Donaldson, opposes the idea of gardai serving as police in Northern Ireland. He said: "I am worried that so many officers are leaving the RUC under the Patten proposals and it is not right to replace them with recruits from the Garda."

The Ulster Unionist security spokesman, Mr Ken Maginnis, said: "This smacks of a gesture that has no basis in terms of a proper selection procedure. We will have to take a closer look at this and we will challenge it if it is unwarranted."