Acting Garda Commissioner Dónall O Cualáin has ruled himself out of applying for the permanent position.
The deputy commissioner for governance and strategy was appointed as acting commissioner by the Government following the shock retirement of Nóirín O’Sullivan last Sunday night. He is the first top ranking officer to publicly rule himself out of contention.
Commissioner O Cualáin, who has served for 34 years, was not expected by informed sources to have wanted the top job.
In a brief statement he said: “I am honoured to have been appointed Acting Commissioner. My focus as Acting Commissioner is to ensure that An Garda Síochána continues to protect and support communities, while progressing the significant changes to the organisation under the Modernisation and Renewal Programme.”
The position of the other deputy commissioner, John Twomey, who is in charge of policing and security, is not yet clear.
The Irish Examiner understands a significant number of assistant commissioners intend or are considering applying for the position.
Sources said the chances of three of the assistant commissioners (Pat Leahy, Barry O’Brien and Mick O’Sullivan) may be better given they have already been promoted earlier this year by the Policing Authority in the first independent selection process to that rank.
An open competition, run by the Policing Authority with the Public Appointments Service, following consultation with the Department of Justice, is expected to open the position to international applicants.
It is unclear how long the process may take to replace Ms O’Sullivan, with some sources expecting it could be well into next year.
Meanwhile, a spokesman for Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said he played no role in the decision to enhance the pension of Noirin O’Sullivan.
It emerged that Mr Varadkar was informed last week by Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan that Ms O’Sullivan’s departure was on the cards.
“The Taoiseach was formally aware on Sunday but the issue was flagged with him midway through last week by Charlie Flanagan,” the spokesman said.
When pressed, the Government spokesman insisted that the Taoiseach had no involvement whatsoever in the decision to include her time as acting Commissioner toward her pension.
As a result, she passed the three-year mark which meant she is entitled to a full Commissioner’s pension, said to be worth in excess of €3 million over its lifetime.
When asked was the Government relieved that after months of controversy she was gone, the spokesman said ministers “fully respected” her decision to retire.