Sacking O'Sullivan would take up to eight weeks and 'stall Garda reform'
It would take at least six weeks to formally relieve Garda Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan of her duties if a decision was taken to sack her, Government sources have said.
Senior ministers believe Ms O'Sullivan would be likely to fight for her position and could seek an inquiry into the reasons for her removal.
Under the legislation which sets out the reasons for which a commissioner can be replaced, she is entitled to "an opportunity to make representations as to why he or she ought not to be removed from office".
Sources said Ms O'Sullivan would want to "defend herself and it could lead to a long, drawn-out row that would stall reforms already under way".
People with knowledge of the process suggested it could take six to eight weeks and even then the Commissioner "could win the argument".
The Irish Independent previously revealed the Attorney General warned the Cabinet that any attempt to sack Ms O'Sullivan without sufficient evidence of wrongdoing would require a hefty financial settlement. Ministers are worried they would then struggle to find a suitable person to take over the demoralised force.
However, a senior Fianna Fáil TD has said one of his party's first acts if it returns to power would be to oust Ms O'Sullivan as Garda chief.
The embattled Commissioner has been grappling with a series of controversies in the force, including the revelation that almost a million bogus breath tests were recorded by gardaí and concerns over financial irregularities at the Templemore Training College.
Fianna Fáil has said it does not have confidence in Ms O'Sullivan but says it is up to the Government to take action.
Asked whether a future Fianna Fáil government would immediately move to sack the Commissioner, the party's finance spokesman Michael McGrath replied by saying "yes".
Mr McGrath claimed the various Garda controversies have been mishandled by Ms O'Sullivan and Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald.
He said public confidence in the force has been eroded and "the work of the ordinary men and women who serve in An Garda Síochána has been undermined".
"That's not good enough. So these issues need to be dealt with and dealt with comprehensively once and for all," said Mr McGrath.
Ms Fitzgerald attacked the Fianna Fáil position last night, saying she was "very disturbed" by Mr McGrath's comments.
"It's profoundly undemocratic to say what they have said about sacking a Garda Commissioner. It suggests a Starr Chamber, it suggests no fair process.
"It's against all natural justice and constitutional justice to suggest that you've already made up your mind about somebody without giving them an opportunity to put their case," she said.
Speaking on RTÉ's 'Six One News', Ms Fitzgerald said such a move would be "empty gestures" by Fianna Fáil. "That's extraordinarily serious in a democracy," she said.