Former police officer ‘wouldn’t touch top PSNI job with a barge pole’

Matt Baggott, outgoing PSNI chief constable.
Matt Baggott, outgoing PSNI chief constable.

One of Northern Ireland’s former top police officers has said he wouldn’t touch the job to be vacated by Matt Baggott “with a barge pole”.

Commenting on the task of filling the post of chief constable when Mr Baggott steps down in September, ex-Assistant Chief Constable Alan McQuillan said he doubts the Policing Board will have a large pool of candidates to choose from – and played down suggestions a top Garda officer could swap forces.

Mr McQuillan, who left the PSNI under the Patten scheme, went on to head the Assets Recovery Agency.

He said: “I have no doubt there will be great efforts to obtain good candidates applying from outside Northern Ireland, and perhaps they will be successful...but I think they will have difficulty getting a good pool of candidates from England to touch it.”

On the possibility of Garda deputy commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan being appointed, Mr McQuillan said: “I think there are a number of major impediments to that. I think it would be very positive if we did have this interchange of senior officers between the forces, but I think they would have to change the legislation to do that. Would any Garda officer be prepared to do it, and face the politics that they would face up here? Until we get away from sectarian politics it’s very difficult to see how any officer from the Garda would touch it.”

The only current PSNI ACC who meets the essential criteria of having served two years with another UK police force is George Hamilton.

ACC Hamilton – a former senior detective in the RUC – is described by Mr McQuillan as an “ideal candidate”.

Mr McQuillan said he hopes an RUC background would not be an impediment to the experienced officer’s progression.

“This comes back to the very fundamental issue – do we want policing to work? We have to try to put the past behind us on all sides,” he said.