The final round of interviews for the next Garda commissioner began yesterday with interim police boss Noirin O’Sullivan the first among three candidates being grilled by an expert panel.
She took part in what sources said was a series of separate presentations and detailed questioning spanning more than three hours.
The identity of the other candidates has been kept quiet, but is believed to be PSNI assistant chief constable Alistair Finlay.
There has been greater speculation concerning the identity of the third candidate, with informed sources initially citing PSNI deputy chief constable Judith Gillespie and, more recently, deputy chief inspector of the Garda Inspectorate Debra Kirby.
There has been increasing speculation in the last week that Ms Kirby is one of the three, but some observers have expressed scepticism at the reports. One informed source said he knew the third candidate was a woman who had served in an outside police force, but wasn’t certain as to the identity.
Ms Kirby retired from the Chicago Police Department last January and took up her role in the Garda Inspectorate immediately afterwards.
The interviews are understood to be taking place Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday of this week.
This is the second round of the interviews. At least six people were interviewed in last month, including two other internal candidates: Derek Byrne, assistant commissioner for National Support Services; and Fintan Fanning, assistant commissioner Eastern Region.
There were an estimated 40 applications overall.
Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald has said she will announce the new commissioner early next month.
The interviews and selection process are being conducted by the Public Appointments Service. The secretary general of the Department of Taoiseach Martin Fraser is on the panel.
Other members include Kathleen O’Toole, former chief inspector of the Garda Inspectorate. Like Ms Kirby, she is an experienced former US police officer.
The chairperson-designate of the Policing Authority, Josephine Feehily, has been added to the panel following her nomination by the Cabinet two weeks ago.
Ms O’Sullivan stepped in as acting commissioner following the resignation of Martin Callinan last March.
Mr Fraser advised Enda Kenny in the run up to Mr Callinan’s resignation. This resulted in an unprecedented visit by then secretary general of the department of justice, Brian Purcell, to Mr Callinan’s home. He conveyed the unease of the Taoiseach regarding revelations of taping of phone calls at Garda stations.
These events are being examined by a commission of investigation, headed by former Supreme Court judge Nial Fennelly.
There has been intense speculation as to whether or not Ms O’Sullivan is the likely successor.
It is understood the panel will rank the three candidates based on their interviews and experience, and forward that to the Government, which will make the decision.
The lack of certainty at the top of the force has been a destabilising factor in what has been a devastating year for the service, compounded by growing unhappiness among members. Most recently, Ms O’Sullivan had to deal with a damning report by the Garda Inspectorate.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved