Setback in bid to block Harris appointment

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Barring a last minute appeal, the appointment of a key collusion figure to the role of Garda Commissioner looks set to go ahead after a High Court judge in Dublin refused to allow a judicial review.

Belfast-based researcher Ciaran MacAirt had asked the court to review the government’s decision to appoint Drew Harris, the Deputy Chief of the PSNI (formerly RUC) police in the North, as 26 County police commissioner.

Mr MacAirt’s grandmother Kathleen Irvine was one of 15 people killed when a loyalist bomb exploded at McGurk’s Bar in Belfast in December 1971.

Mr MacAirt sought to quash the decision to appoint Harris, who is believed to have sworn allegiance to the British state and to protect British state secrets. Harris has been accused of helping to cover up state involvement in multiple loyalist atrocities.

Mr MacAirt also sought a declaration that due to his obligations under the British Offical Secrets Act and his role in the protection of RUC and MI5, Mr Harris would be incapable of directing an independent investigation into the murder of Irish citizens where collusion was alleged.

The Dublin government opposed the application, arguing that Mr MacAirt’s action was “unstateable and novel”. It argued Mr MacAirt’s case was “nothing more than an expression of an opinion” that he does not agree with Mr Harris’s appointment.

Refusing a judicial review, Justice Denis McDonald claimed it would have little chance of success.

“I have significant sympathy for the applicant for his appalling family tragedy, but the court’s fundamental rule is, unless there is a very strong reason to take a different view, there is no reason to do so.

“All the allegations relied upon took place in Northern Ireland, no allegations were made that there is any ongoing investigation into the atrocity where the applicant’s grandmother was killed, or any mention of any investigation by Gardai that Mr Harris would have been involved in. I cannot think I have any alternative in this case.”

Outside the High Court, Mr MacAirt said he would speak to other victims before deciding on his next steps.

“We’re very very disappointed, the judge gave us a lot of points, so we will be going back to Belfast and taking time to consider those.”

He said they would take time to go through a written judgment. “I’m a younger family member of a campaign group so I will discuss this with my peers before we move forward.”

Mr Harris is due to officially take control of the 26 County police on Monday 3 September, and is to receive a salary of 250,000 euro per annum.

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