Creative options are being examined in a bid to resolve a promotion dispute involving six senior gardaí.
The six officers are described as being stuck in a “standoff” between the Department of Justice and the Policing Authority over whether or not their promotions should go ahead.
It is understood that Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan has requested that the six officers be appointed to fill existing vacancies.
The six include five superintendents on a panel to be promoted to chief superintendent and one chief superintendent listed for promotion to assistant commissioner.
The panel will expire at the end of the year, when the promotion process is due to be transferred from the Department of Justice to the Policing Authority.
The superintendents are understood to have made a submission arguing that they have a “legitimate expectation” to promotion and that any failure to honour that expectation will “undoubtedly cast aspersions” on their characters and will affect their careers.
They are understood to have explored legal options, thought to include a possible injunction against the regulations transferring powers to the authority.
The superintendents have pointed out that there are eight existing critical vacancies at chief superintendent rank, which were identified by the Garda Commissioner’s Modernisation and Renewal Programme.
They say four chief superintendents are currently double-jobbing because of vacancies, providing cover for the Technical Bureau, the National Traffic Bureau, and Internal Affairs.
The Association of Garda Superintendents (AGS) has made representations on their behalf, arguing that the five participated in an independent promotion process in “good faith and on the basis that fair procedures would be consistently applied”.
Some 13 of the 18 superintendents and one of two chiefs have been promoted from the panels so far this year.
In a letter to the Tánaiste, the AGS said it appeared that “some arbitrary decision” had been taken to decline or refuse the appointments to the five, which had “a very significant detrimental impact on our members’ characters, reputations and careers”.
The AGS said there was a “fundamental need, from an operational point of view, to ensure vacancies are filled” and called on Ms Fitzgerald to bring forward their names for ratification at Cabinet.
It is understood that the AGS has since had a meeting with department officials at which this issue was discussed. A number of options have been aired and, it is understood, are receiving consideration.
One is to bring in a transitional arrangement whereby the Department of Justice seeks and secures from the Department of Public Expenditure a temporary increase in the staffing sanction or Employee Control Framework (ECF) at chief superintendent level, from 45 to 50.
It has been pointed out that the Modernisation and Renewal Programme argues for 53 chief superintendents.
Currently, two chiefs are due to retire by January and an assistant commissioner is scheduled to leave by February. This would allow for three of the five to be promoted within months.
Another assistant commissioner will go by April and a further one by June.
This would create the necessary vacancies for all five, by which stage the ECF could be brought back to 45.
Parallel with this, the regulations would be introduced handing over the promotion process to the Authority, which will look after new promotions.
A second option is for the Tánaiste to defer the regulations for a brief period to allow for the promotions to go ahead. But this would appear to breach public commitments that the regulations would be introduced by year's end.
In a statement yesterday, the AGS said: “There is still ongoing contact with the department and we are looking forward to being consulted on the transitional approach to the handover to the Policing Authority.
“We hope that members currently on the list will be promoted to those positions to ensure there is no gap in the organisation between the handover from the department to the authority.”
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