New row over failure to fill critical vacancies in the top ranks of the force
A new row has erupted over the Government's failure to fill critical vacancies in the top ranks of An Garda Síochána.
The force faces into the new year with eight key posts for chief superintendents and at least one for assistant commissioner already vacant.
A further 40 vacancies in senior management are due to arise over the next 18 months to two years.
Six officers were notified last May that they were being promoted to fill some of the gaps and were put on a list with other successful candidates.
Now dubbed 'The Forgotten Six', they remain on the list, which becomes extinct by December 31.
The debacle has created an unprecedented scenario where senior officers, who have been promised promotion, will be forced to undergo a new selection process along with fresh candidates sometime in 2017.
The problem is being caused by the decision to hand over responsibility for promotions to the Policing Authority when Tánaiste and Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald signs the necessary regulations by the end of the year.
The plan was to promote everybody on the list and allow the authority to start with a fresh slate. But financial objections from the Public Expenditure Department are blocking the final six: Chief Supt Michael O'Sullivan, head of liaison and protection; Det Supt William Johnston, security and intelligence; Det Supt Brian Sutton, Dublin South; Supt Pat Murray, Athlone; Supt Sarah Meyler, vetting unit; and Supt Pat McCabe, Garda College.
As a result of the staffing shortage, the officer in charge of Dublin East division is doubling up in the Dublin regional office where his tasking duties cover uniformed and plain-clothes officers including the new armed response unit to help tackle organised crime gangs in the capital.
Three more vacancies for assistant commissioners will be created by retirements in the first six months of next year while the chief superintendent in the security section is also leaving in January and another chief is retiring in February.
Regulations for handing over to the Policing Authority have not been fully discussed with the Garda representative groups and staffing arrangements have not been finalised.