Drew Harris and Special Branch collusion

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By Jude Collins (judecollins.com)

There has been much reporting and commentary, both in Britain and in Ireland north and south, about the findings of the investigation of police ombudsman Marie Anderson into ‘collusive behaviour’ between the police and loyalist/unionist paramilitaries during the 1990s. The ombudsman said she was ‘deeply concerned’ by the failure to investigate murders carried out by the UDA in the 1990s. Files about the attack on Sean Graham’s bookies on the Ormeau Road were deliberately destroyed and the way Special Branch used informers who had been involved in murders was ‘totally unacceptable’.

Well, like the rest of us, the ombudsman will have to accept how Special Branch acted, because we can’t go back in time and undo the wrongs then committed. It was because of surveillance ‘failures’ that loyalists/unionists brought in a consignment of military-grade weapons in 1987. Special Branch didn’t tell people when their lives were in danger. Special Branch didn’t pass information to police teams investigating murders. A senior PSNI officer says that the ombudsman’s report makes ‘uncomfortable reading’.

That’s a mild term to use – uncomfortable reading’ . Reading about the actions of the police working with loyalist terrorists in the killing of Catholics makes you feel uncomfortable. No doubt there will be others interviewed by the media who will put it a bit stronger than ‘uncomfortable’.

Personally, I’m waiting for a journalist – maybe RTÉ – to approach Garda Commissioner Drew Harris and ask him what he knows of these murderous activities involving Special Branch.

After all, Commissioner Harris was in the RUC from 1983 and it is a truth universally acknowledged that much of his police work was in intelligence, including with MI5. Is it conceivable that the murderous activity which the ombudsman has reported was going on and Drew Harris wasn’t told about it? Didn’t know a thing, never suspected, never asked?

This is exactly the kind of situation that was bound to occur when Harris was appointed Garda Commissioner in 2018. His background in the RUC, his intelligence work and links with MI5 meant he probably knew a lot about deaths in the north like those in the Sean Graham betting shop and in the south like the Dublin and Monaghan bombings.

How can any self-respecting journalist writing on the ombudsman’s report not highlight the fact that Commissioner Harris should be asked what he knows?

Or does being Garda Commissioner mean you’re unquestionable and untouchable?

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