Senior figures in the Garda Inspectorate could be in the running for the top job in the Garda Ombudsman following the shock resignation of its chairman Simon O’Brien.
Deputy inspectors Mark Toland and Debra Kirby are thought to be well-regarded within justice and government circles and may appear on a shortlist of candidates.
Ms Kirby was reported as being one of three candidates shortlisted for the Garda commissioner post, while senior sources have suggested Mr Toland could be a replacement of Mr O’Brien.
Mr Toland was the author in the inspectorate’s Crime Investigation report, which was strongly backed by government ministers.
The pair have extensive policing experience.
The procedure for the appointment is expected to be by ministerial selection and government nomination, rather than by open competition through the public appointments process. This is similar to the process for the current three-person commission.
Mr O’Brien, along with fellow commissioners Kieran Fitzgerald and Carmel Foley, were nominated by the Government to the Oireachtas in 2011. It is a five-year term, ending in December 2016.
Fianna Fáil justice spokesman Niall Collins urged Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald to “quickly engage an open, transparent process” to appoint a replacement.
Ms Fitzgerald thanked Mr O’Brien for the “important contribution” he made as chairman of GSOC.
Mr O’Brien had a tense relationship with An Garda Síochána, former justice minister Alan Shatter, and much of the Government following the GSOC bugging scandal.
However, he received considerable backing among civil and human rights groups.
Mr Collins said: “I still believe the Government undermined GSOC in the past year, particularly under [Mr Shatter], and public confidence needs to be restored.”
A former senior detective in the London Metropolitan Police, Mr O’Brien was appointed as deputy chief inspector of the Garda Inspectorate in March 2010 before being appointed as GSOC chairman in December 2011.
A statement from GSOC said Mr O’Brien had informed the President and the justice minister of his intention to leave his position on January 30. He is to take up a role as chief executive of the Pensions Ombudsman Service for the UK on February 2.
Mr O’Brien said: “I have been in Ireland for five years in two posts. This is a significant opportunity and I am looking forward to the new challenge. The new post will bring me back home to be with my wife and young family in London.”
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