New Garda Commissioner to bring in team of support staff

The Taoiseach says Sinn Féin is already trying to undermine confidence in the Commissioner

New Garda Commissioner to bring in team of support staff

Incoming Garda Commissioner Drew Harris outside Government Buildings, 26-06-2018. Image: Leah Farrell/RollingNews

The new Garda Commissioner will be allowed to bring in his own team of support staff.

PSNI Deputy Police Constable Drew Harris became the first outsider to be appointed to the top Garda job yesterday.

The appointment comes following an 'international selection process' by the Public Appointments Service, on behalf of the Policing Authority.

At least two current senior members of Garda management were in the running for the Commissioner post.

This afternoon, the Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan said the incoming commissioner will be allowed to bring in some of his PSNI leadership team – but he will be expected to work within the management structure that is currently in place.

“There may well be an opportunity for the new commissioner to bring with him a very small number of support staff,” he said.

“But he will be working with Garda management as a team in An Garda Síochána and I want to acknowledge commitment and dedication of the current Garda Management team.”

The announcement of the appointment yesterday was largely positive in political circles – however Sinn Féin’s reaction was lukewarm – with the party insisting it would hold him to account.

Some members of the party have had a strained relationship with Mr Harris during his time in the North and blame him for the arrest of Gerry Adams in relation to the murder of Jean McConville.

Mary Lou McDonald has raised concerns about his time in the RUC:

“He has to demonstrate that he in no way subscribes to the toxic and vindictive policing culture which necessitated the disbandment of the RUC,” she said.

“What assurances can you give that the new Garda Commissioner will play the part demanded of that office in exposing collusion, uncovering truth and holding those responsible to account.”

The Sinn Féin president said victims of British State violence, including the Relatives for Justice campaign group had raised concern over Mr Harris’ alleged involvement in “the old RUC culture of political policing and cover-up” of acts of violence during the Troubles.

She said the commissioner must earn the force’s trust, “particularly in relation to his involvement in legacy cases.”

However, the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar took issue with Deputy McDonald's statements.

“I am a little bit disappointed by the position that you are taking now which is almost in the space of trying to undermine confidence in the new Garda Commissioner before he has even taken up office,” he said.

“And I think that is disappointing.”

He said Mr Harris was “very much involved” in the RUCs transition into the PSNI and said he expects him to “be someone who can really bring about better policing in Ireland and greater accountability.”

Additional reporting from Sean Defoe ...