The judgment of Garda Commissioner Drew Harris has been called into question after he reportedly used PSNI officers for his personal protection south of the border.
A retired Garda detective chief superintendent and former national head of Interpol said a security incident at police headquarters in Dublin “raises questions” around the legality of PSNI in the Republic who “have no authority to carry firearms”.
John O’Brien voiced his concern after a report that an unmarked armoured PSNI 4x4 vehicle was damaged when security personnel activated security bollards at Phoenix Park last month.
Mr Harris, whose RUC superintendent father Alwyn Harris was murdered by the IRA in October 1989, is understood to have been travelling back to Dublin from Northern Ireland when the crash happened on March 25.
Mr O’Brien said: “It is not standard operating procedure, the usual way that we do things, that an armed escort from the PSNI would travel to Garda headquarters to protect the commissioner of the Garda Síochána.
“The officers concerned have no authority to carry firearms. There are huge issues around how they would respond and what the legality of it would be, if they were under attack.
“Drew Harris needs to indicate why he exercised this particular judgment in this case because it is, in my professional experience, most unusual,” he told RTE radio.
“If some incident goes down, what are the rules of engagement? The bottom line is that the gardaí and the Defence Forces are the only service permitted to carry firearms in this jurisdiction,” Mr O’Brien added.
A Garda spokesman said he could not comment on the incident for “operational reasons”.
A spokeswoman for the PSNI said: “We do not comment on operational matters. However, where PSNI and An Garda Síochána carry out any operational activity in either jurisdiction it is within the law and with full permission and knowledge of the host service.
“Both PSNI and An Garda Síochána are content normal procedure was followed.”