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Wednesday 18 July 2018

Top garda in Dublin tipped to take over as Commissioner

Assistant Commissioner Pat Leahy Picture: Damien Eagers
Assistant Commissioner Pat Leahy Picture: Damien Eagers
Tom Brady

Tom Brady

Assistant Garda Commissioner Pat Leahy is being tipped to take over at the helm of the force, nine months after the sudden departure of Nóirín O'Sullivan.

Mr Leahy, who is among two internal candidates in the mix, is being widely talked about in political circles as the favourite for the top job.

Informed speculation suggests he has impressed, as the last round of interviews for the vacant post was finalised.

However, the process is not yet complete - there remains a shortlist of five candidates, from which a provisional selection is expected to be made before the end of the month.

While sources suggested that Mr Leahy was currently a frontrunner, they stressed an announcement was not yet imminent.

Background checks have been carried out on the five, and a more intensive probe will be put in place when the likely winner has been chosen.

This is part of an agreed process, which is expected to take several weeks and will include informal contacts with senior members of the Government and, possibly, the Opposition before an announcement is made.

A senior security source said last night: "Everybody will want to make sure that each 'i' has been dotted and 't' crossed before an announcement is made publicly, to minimise the risk of another major controversy and row in the Dáil in the first days of the new appointee taking office."

This is a particularly sensitive appointment, given the pressure from some political quarters to fill the post from outside the force and even outside the jurisdiction.

The original applicants included several civilians here, as well as police officers outside of the State.

The vacancy was created last September following the resignation of Ms O'Sullivan.

In the meantime, Dónall Ó Cualáin has been acting commissioner but he did not apply for the job and is due to retire in September.

Gangland

The two senior gardaí still in the running are Deputy Commissioner John Twomey, in charge of policing and security following the promotion of Ms O'Sullivan to the top post, and Assistant Commissioner Leahy, who was the first senior officer to be appointed by the Policing Authority and has since headed up the force in Dublin.

He was previously in charge of policing the gangland feud in Dublin's north inner city as Chief Superintendent.

Also still in the running is PSNI deputy chief constable Drew Harris, who was responsible for intelligence in Northern Ireland and worked closely with the British security agency MI5 in the fight against dissident republican and loyalist paramilitaries.

Mr Harris built up a strong working relationship with the Garda while in that post, and there was huge co-operation between the two forces in tackling cross-border terrorism.

The speculation that the new commissioner had to come from outside the jurisdiction to ensure reform of the force was properly carried out led to concern the security and intelligence section at Garda headquarters would have to be hived off into a separate agency.

Former FBI chiefs and senior European police officers have stated that Ireland was "lucky" to have all policing and security units under one umbrella rather than having competing agencies in charge.

The chairwoman of the Policing Commission, Kathleen O'Toole, noted last year that setting up a new agency was not guaranteed to work and could create problems.

Irish Independent

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