The Department of Justice (DoJ) has confirmed that whoever takes over from George Hamilton as chief of the PSNI does not have to be a UK citizen.
It also confirmed that they could have served their entire career outside the PSNI – opening the possibility that the job could be taken by law enforcement officers not just from An Garda Siochana but from anywhere in the world.
The DoJ has told the News Letter that whilst UK citizenship is not a requirement, “in line with the legislation in respect of qualification for appointment if not an EU citizen, they should have leave to enter or remain in the UK”.
Mr Hamilton retires at the end of June.
Since the PSNI was brought into being in 2001, three of the six people to have held its top leadership position were from outside Northern Ireland, but none were from outside the UK.
The first was Englishman Colin Cramphorn, who briefly acted as Sir Ronnie Flanagan’s replacement for several months in 2002. Then fellow English officers Hugh Orde and Matt Baggott held the reins from 2002-2009, and 2014-2019 respectively.
Asked specifically about the idea of the new chief constable coming from a Garda Siochana background by the News Letter this week, Joanne Bunting (DUP MLA for East Belfast), a newly appointed member of the Policing Board she said: “What I’m interested in is getting the right fit for Northern Ireland.
“Somebody who can take forward George’s work and build on that. So where that person comes from is somewhat immaterial. The issue is that they will be entirely focused on what’s good and right and the best for policing in Northern Ireland...
“Where that person is from is kind of secondary. The issue here is who is the right fit for Northern Ireland.”