Minister for Justice Alan ShatterGoogle Images

The Irish police force is to open its doors to officers from Northern Ireland in a new and historic recruitment drive.

For the first time, officers in the Police Service of Northern Ireland will be eligible to apply for senior positions within the Garda Siochana (police force) in the Republic.

Ireland’s Minister for Justice Alan Shatter has confirmed the development and said he ‘very much welcomes’ it.

“These new regulations mark a truly historical further step in relations between the two forces,” Minister Shatter.

The Irish Times reports that Garda representatives are annoyed however that Shatter introduced the revolutionary new move without properly consulting them.

The report states that the open recruitment system was provided for in the Inter-Governmental Agreement on Policing Co-operation.

Signed a decade ago, the agreement was the result of recommendations in the Patten report on policing in the North.

Senior PSNI officers could be attracted by a move to the Republic as salaries and expenses are higher in the South.

Minister Shatter has confirmed that from now on PSNI officers can apply for all vacancies that arise in the Garda at the rank of inspector, superintendent, chief superintendent or assistant commissioner.

However, the two most senior ranks in the Garda - deputy Garda commissioner and Garda commissioner - will still be filled by Irish government appointments from within the force.

If PSNI members are successful in securing any one of the vacancies currently at assistant commissioner level, they would then be eligible in the next few years to be appointed by the Government to the position of deputy commissioner or commissioner.