Garda Commissioner Drew Harris is in discussions with the Minister for Justice and the Policing Authority to raise the retirement age for senior garda officers.

Mr Harris told a conference of garda superintendents last week that he was concerned about the loss through retirement of capable, experienced officers.

At present, gardaí must retire at 60 years of age, but can leave earlier if they have completed 30 years' service.

Three of An Garda Síochána's most senior anti-gang and anti-terrorist officers are to retire in the next six months; the head of the Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau, the head of Security and Intelligence and the head of Special Tactics and Operations Command.

The Assistant Commissioner in charge of Security and Intelligence, Michael O'Sullivan, has announced he is to take early retirement at the end of March, a year earlier than he was due to leave.

In addition to this, a number of senior operational posts remain vacant, including that of Deputy Commissioner.

While senior garda officers who are part of An Garda Síochána’s senior leadership team must retire at 60, senior garda civilian staff such as heads of finance, IT and legal can remain in their posts until they are 70.

Commissioner Harris has already said he is concerned that a number of the most suitable candidates did not apply for the second highest position in An Garda Síochána, because they were due to retire on age grounds.

A spokesperson for the Minister for Justice said officials at the department are looking at the option of extending the retirement ages for Garda Superintendents, Chief Superintendents and Commissioners to 62 or 63.

However, it is not clear if new legislation is required and whether this can be achieved in time to allow senior experienced officers remain in An Garda Síochána this year.