The Policing Authority is implementing a key part in the reform of An Garda Síochána as it oversees the appointment of gardaí to key management positions.
Almost 180 gardaí have applied for vacancies at senior ranks in the organisation — at chief superintendent and superintendent levels.
This is the first time that these appointments have been conducted by an external body, which is considered fundamental to ensuring that promotions are seen to be based on merit and are conducted in an independent, fair, and transparent manner.
Figures from the authority show that 96 people have applied for vacancies at the rank of superintendent, while 79 officers have applied for vacancies at the rank of chief superintendent.
These ranks form the management spine of the organisation.
As superintendents and chief superintendents they are, respectively, the district and divisional officers around the country or they run the organisation’s various specialist units, with some of them based at Garda Headquarters.
Over time, subsequent promotions to ranks of assistant commissioners and above will be drawn from this pool.
Of the 175 applicants, those who are successful through the various stages will be placed on a panel, from which vacancies will be filled.
The panel for superintendent is expected to be chosen by the end of this month, while the panel for chief superintendent is due to be in place by the end of July.
According to the estimates from the Garda Commissioner’s office, at least 13 vacancies are expected to arise by the end of the year.
Seven of these are at superintendent rank and six at chief superintendent level. However, further vacancies could also arise.
The authority has already run its first competition — for the position of assistant commissioner — and has appointed three people to those positions: Michael O’Sullivan, Pat Leahy, and Barry O’Brien.
Mr O’Sullivan has been appointed to the highly sensitive role as head of Crime & Security, which became vacant with the retirement of John O’Mahoney last week.
Mr Leahy has taken over the Dublin Metropolitan Region and Mr O’Brien is in charge of the Northern Region.
Meanwhile, Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan is set for yet another testing questions-and-answers session when she appears before the Policing Authority next Thursday.
As part of its private session, the authority will question her further in relation to escalating concerns over financial irregularities at Templemore Garda College.
The commissioner revealed to the Public Accounts Committee last Tuesday that she had referred a specific matter in relation to suspected fraudulent activity involving a secret garda bank account to the Garda Ombudsman.
Members of the PAC have expressed shock at the intensity of divisions within senior garda management, particularly among civilian managers, serious concern at what they see as continuing efforts to hide and contain controversies within Garda HQ and significant frustration in getting the commissioner to answer their questions.
Policing Authority chairwoman Josephine Feehily later told PAC that she was “disappointed and alarmed” at what had emerged.
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