Harris sworn in as Garda boss under cover of darkness
Harris sworn in as Garda boss under cover of darkness


The former assistant chief of the RUC police, Drew Harris, has been controversially sworn in as Garda Commissioner in an extraordinary midnight ceremony at the force’s headquarters in Kevin Street, Dublin.

It is understood the late night appointment took place to prevent a last-minute legal intervention aimed at blocking his confirmation this morning. It was revealed last week the appointment was taking place without the necessary vetting procedure, while families of victims of collusion had also been considering a court appeal.

Harris has come under criticism as the front man for the PSNI police in the North (formerly RUC) for blocking investigations into cases of collusion between loyalist death squads and the Crown Forces.

Last week Ciaran MacAirt, whose grandmother was killed in the McGurk’s Bar bombing in Belfast, had his request for a judicial review rejected by the High Court in Dublin.

He said Harris had done terrible damage to the confidence of nationalists and unionists who are looking for truth.

“The Police Service of Northern Ireland was touted as a reformed police force,” he said. “The only services our families have received were denial and delay. The PSNI has done nothing other than try to block our campaign for truth and acknowledgement.

“It has dragged our older family members through courts as it tried to defend what was a sectarian police force in the past. Drew Harris was at the forefront of that organisation.

“So Harris’s appointment as Garda Commissioner is an aberration and an insult to families who are fighting for truth and justice.”

Ruth Coppinger of Solidarity said Harris had “shown himself in Northern Ireland to be a safe pair of hands for the Establishment”.

“We have no faith in the British state to provide justice or a true accounting of the past,” she said.

“We want to see a genuine process set up to look at historical atrocities committed by all sides during the conflict, be it the Miami Showband massacre or the Kingsmill Massacre.”

Harris has previously sworn to protect the United Kingdom and to uphold its state security and national interests.

During the Smithwick Tribunal it was disclosed that he had overall responsibility for intelligence within the PSNI (Special Branch) and was its liaison officer with MI5, Britain’s domestic intelligence agency.

While working with MI5, he specifically blocked investigations into patterns of collusion which could have unravelled a network of sectarian killing operations.

In December 2014, Relatives for Justice, which works on behalf of victims of the conflict, accused Harris specifically of placing “endless obstructions” to inquests into the killings.

Last week, Michael C Murphy, a former deputy director of military intelligence with the 26 County defence forces, said the necessary ‘top secret’ clearance for Garda Commissioner could not legally be granted to Harris as the required security clearance process could not be conducted outside the 26 County jurisdiction.

The minority Fine Gael government in Dublin has waved away these concerns as “political” complaints by the “usual suspects”. Fine Gael MEP Brian Hayes insisted the appointment “is good for accountability and openness and good for security on this island”.

Sinn Fein did not oppose the appointment and has not yet commented on Harris’s confirmation. Party spokesperson Donnchadh O Laoghaire said last week his party would be “holding him to account”.

Speaking following the midnight ceremony, the new Garda Commissioner addressed a small gathering of high-ranking officers, but unsurprisingly did not refer to his links to the RUC or MI5.

“We need to move quickly to adapt to a changing society to ensure that we are strongly positioned to protect the State, communities and the vulnerable,” he told them.

“To do this we will make use of our resources to best effect. We will deliver to the highest possible operational and ethical standards. We will improve our systems, processes and training so our people have the right tools and skills to do their job effectively.

“We will have a workplace of openness and transparency, of equality of opportunity, and of management at all levels speaking with and listening to the people they work with. We will be more open to concerns raised internally and externally.”

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