Belfast Telegraph

PSNI deputy in running for top Garda job

By Tom Brady

Assistant Garda commissioner Pat Leahy is being tipped to take over at the helm of the Irish police force, nine months after the sudden departure of Noirin O'Sullivan.

Mr Leahy, who is among the candidates in the mix, is being widely talked about in political circles as the favourite for the top job.

Also in the running is PSNI deputy chief constable Drew Harris, who was responsible for intelligence in Northern Ireland and worked closely with the security agency, MI5, in the fight against dissident republican and loyalist paramilitaries.

Mr Harris built up a strong working relationship with the Garda while in that post and there was huge co-operation between the two forces in tackling cross-border terrorism.

The speculation last year that the new commissioner had to come from outside the jurisdiction to ensure that reform of the force was properly carried out led to concern that the security and intelligence section at Garda headquarters in Phoenix Park would have to be hived off into a separate agency.

Speculation suggests Mr Leahy has impressed, as the last round of interviews for the vacant post was finalised.

However the process is not yet complete - the shortlist still has five candidates, from which a provisional selection is expected to be made before the end of the month.

While sources suggested that Mr Leahy was currently a frontrunner, they stressed an announcement was not yet imminent.

Background checks have been carried out on the five and a more intensive probe will be put in place when the likely winner has been chosen.

This is part of a process which is expected to take several weeks and will include informal contacts with senior members of the Irish Government and, possibly, the Opposition, before an announcement is made.

A senior security source said: "Everybody will want to make sure that each 'i' has been dotted and 't' crossed before an announcement is made publicly to minimise the risk of another major controversy and row in the Dail in the first days of the new appointee taking office."

This is a particularly sensitive appointment, given the pressure from some political quarters to fill the post from outside the force and even outside the jurisdiction.

The original applicants included several civilians, as well as police officers outside of the State.

The vacancy was created last September following the resignation of Noirin O'Sullivan.

In the meantime, Donall O Cualain has been acting commissioner.

However, he did not apply for the job and is due to retire in September.

Belfast Telegraph

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