The most challenging and dangerous job in senior British policing has been advertised across the UK and Ireland – the post of chief constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland.
Northern Ireland's policing board published the advert seeking applicants to replace Matt Baggott as head of the PSNI. He stands down from the position at the end of the summer.
The new chief constable will serve for at least five years, according to the policing board.
Anne Connolly, the board's chairwoman, said: “This is a high-profile role, policing in the most challenging operational environment in the United Kingdom and Ireland. We are looking for an individual with considerable operational experience and sound business skills, capable of delivering continuous improvement in the context of a reducing budget.”
The favourite among those who might apply for the job is the PSNI assistant chief constable George Hamilton, who returned to Northern Ireland following a period of service with the Strathclyde constabulary. He was open in pointing the blame earlier this week at the Ulster Defence Association for a mini-invasion of the County Antrim port town of Larne on Sunday evening, in which 100 loyalists carried out attacks on the homes and properties of a breakaway faction of the organisation.
Whoever takes over from Baggott will inherit a number of policing problems unique to Northern Ireland. The new chief constable will head a force still being targeted by armed republican dissident groups. Under Baggott's leadership, the PSNI had to deal with the murder of the Catholic police recruit Ronan Kerr in 2011. His officers are still under fire, with a number of them narrowly escaping injury or death in a mortar bomb attack on a police patrol in west Belfast three weeks ago.
The PSNI over the past five years has had to deal with violent public disorder firstly linked to banned Orange Order parades in north Belfast and, lately, to the loyalist protests against Belfast city council's policy to restrict the flying of the union flag over its premises, including City Hall.
Specialist policing units have also had to deal with the legacy of the Troubles, with Waking-the-Dead-style inquiries into unsolved paramilitary murders and state-related killings between 1969 and 1998. The legacy issue has equally dogged the political process, with unionist and nationalist politicians still unable to agree on a mechanism to deal with addressing the questions of truth and reconciliation.
Baggott's two success stories during his tenure have been the Queen's visit to Northern Ireland during her diamond jubilee tour in 2012 and the peaceful, incident-free G8 summit in County Fermanagh last year.