TWO of the most experienced operational officers in the Garda have indicated they intend to retire early.
The move has sparked fears of a fresh brain drain from the force as officers carefully consider the impact of further financial cuts proposed by the Government.
Previous reductions in salary resulted in the loss of a lot of experienced personnel at all ranks and many of these have not been replaced, with several posts at senior level being merged to cover the shortfall.
The latest officers about to leave, Michael Jackson and Gabriel O'Gara, are both detective superintendents. Their departures represent a major blow to the fight against terrorism and gangland crime.
Det Supt Jackson is one of the three officers spearheading the Special Branch in its crackdown on dissident republican terrorism. He is in charge of the Emergency Response Unit, and is also responsible for a select group of trained negotiators.
Det Supt O'Gara has spent most of his career taking on organised criminals in Dublin's inner city. He has led investigations into the activities of notorious crime gangs based on the southside.
The departures will further degrade corporate memory in the force.
Officers predicted that more retirements were now likely, particularly among senior experienced officers, who have already completed 30 years' service and qualify for a pension.
One senior figure told the Irish Independent last night: "Nobody is indispensable but you can't replace people with their experience.
"Their presence will be missed on the frontline of the ongoing battle against the dissidents and organised criminals, and this is a factor which is not being taken into account by the bean counters in their offices as they work out how to make further savings from the emergency services," he added.
Although final proposals on new cuts have yet to be tabled by the Department of Justice, superintendents and chief superintendents fear they could be hit by a reduction of between 6pc and 7pc in their wages, on top of previous cuts to salary and allowances in recent years.