Next commissioner can come from Garda ranks, says Flanagan

Government is open to raising the €180,000 salary to attract outside candidates

Applications for Nóirín O'Sullivan's replacement as garda commissioner will be considered from inside and outside the force, Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan has stressed, following indications from two government ministers that they would prefer an external appointment.

“Can I say, lest there be any misunderstanding or doubt, at no stage has the government indicated its preference for who might succeed Nóirín O’Sullivan,” Mr Flanagan said.

“I, as Minister for Justice, am not ruling out the possibility of appointing someone from within. That’s what this process is all about.”

Minister for Communications Denis Naughten said previously he favours an external candidate but has full confidence in whatever decision the Policing Authority makes. Minister of State Attending Government Finian McGrath, of the Independent Alliance, also said that an external appointee would be "best placed to drive reform within An Garda Síochána".

Mr Flanagan said the selection of candidates for the post will be handled by the Policing Authority “independent of government.”

Several people from outside the Garda have been linked to the job including Robert Watt, the secretary general of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.

Senior officers from the PSNI and UK police forces have also been linked to the role. It is thought the commissioner’s €180,000 salary would have to be raised significantly to attract experienced outside candidates.

It is understood the preference within government is for a candidate who is an Irish citizen as the job will involve dealing with matters of State security.

Mr Flanagan indicated to RTÉ News at One that a salary increase is being considered by the government.

“I’m not saying I’ve an open cheque book but what I have is an intent to ensure one particular issue is not going to become an insurmountable obstacle.”

The Minister also clarified when he first learned of Ms O’Sullivan’s resignation. He said it was indicated to him in late August that the commissioner might step down at which point he discussed the matter with the Taoiseach.

He said he received her formal resignation last Sunday, the same day it was publicly announced. He said at no point did he pressure the commissioner to step down.

“This decision was made on her own time by the commissioner on a unilateral basis and of course I accepted her retirement,” Mr Flanagan said.