Three candidates have applied for Sir Ronnie Flanagan's job as Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland. Two of the assistant chief constables are in the running. A Northern Ireland-born officer with an English force refused to say yesterday whether she had applied.
Maria Wallis, who is Sussex Deputy Chief Constable, has never served in Northern Ireland. Her 25-year career has been with Sussex and the Metropolitan Police.
As a woman and a Catholic she has been regarded as the most radical possibility for the post. But such a limited number of applicants gives the new Policing Board little choice in finding a successor to Sir Ronnie. Officers in forces in Britain have often applied for senior posts in Northern Ireland, but on this occasion the Belfast job seems to be regarded as a bed of nails.
Only five application forms were believed to have been sent out by the Policing Board. Only three Belfast officers had the credentials for the post and two of these have applied. One is Alan McQuillan, who as officer in charge of Belfast had much media exposure for his handling of protracted disturbances in the city's north. The other is Chris Albiston, who is to return to Belfast to head the CID and Special Branch after spending a year on secondment in Kosovo. He has experience with the RUC Special Branch. The service's acting Chief Constable, Colin Cramphorn, has ruled himself out. He said in a statement: "It has become apparent to me that the board's aspiration is for a Chief Constable of a style and type that I could never be." Mr Cramphorn, an Englishman, has applied for posts in English and Scottish constabularies.
Fred Cobain, an Ulster Unionist member of the board, said he had rushed his decision. "I've met him only once so I don't know what his basis is," he said.
"The board is looking for someone who is energetic, someone with charisma and leadership-driven."
Alex Attwood, a nationalist representative, said: "This is going to be the toughest, most demanding policing job on these islands. You don't fly your kite on this one. If you think you're up for it you apply. If not, you don't."
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