‘New garda chief hasn’t come from Russia or North Korea’ – Flanagan

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris (Photo: Garda Síochána)
Garda Commissioner Drew Harris (Photo: Garda Síochána)

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan has defended the appointment of new Garda Commissioner Drew Harris, saying: “We’re not hiring a commissioner from North Korea or Russia. We’re hiring an Irish policeman from a police service on our island.”

Mr Flanagan rejected suggestions that Mr Harris being bound by the Official Secrets Acts of both the UK and Ireland represents a conflict of interest.

He also dismissed claims that not enough vetting of Mr Harris, a former Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) deputy chief constable, has taken place.

Mr Flanagan added: “We’re hiring somebody whose track record we know to be sound, who will do a very good job as Garda Commissioner and in whom both myself and the Government has every confidence.”

Mr Harris was sworn in as Garda Commissioner at a minute past midnight in Kevin Street Divisional Headquarters in Dublin last night.

The ceremony involved the new Commissioner signing the Garda Code of Ethics and the Official Secrets Act.

Drew Harris: Northerner is first Garda chief from outside the State. Photo: PADrew Harris: Northerner is first Garda chief from outside the State. Photo: PA

Drew Harris: Northerner is first Garda chief from outside the State. Photo: PA

Acting Garda Commissioner Dónall Ó Cualáin was to step down at the same time.

Mr Harris is the first Garda Commissioner appointed from outside the State.

His officer father, Alwyn, was killed by an IRA bomb in 1989.

Speaking to RTÉ Radio’s ‘This Week’ programme, Mr Flanagan denied there was a conflict of interest over the Official Secrets Act.

He also said that criticism of the incoming Garda Commissioner has been “unfair” and “politically motivated”.

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Mr Flanagan said that once attested, Mr Harris would be subject “to the full range of legal obligations as any other member of An Garda Síochána”. He praised his “dedication to duty” and “commitment to impartial policing”.

Mr Flanagan added: “In fact, he has defended democracy and the rule of law all of his professional life.”

He said the Garda and PSNI have worked together closely for many years and the North-south relationship is key to the security on this island.

He said: “The greatest threat to the security of this State comes from dissident Republicans, particularly in the Border area.”

Mr Flanagan insisted he is satisfied with the vetting arrangements for Mr Harris’s appointment.

Mr Harris takes over a Garda force that has been beset with a series of controversies from whistleblower revelations to the bogus breath test scandal.

He was selected as the new Garda Commissioner following a new process involving the Public Appointments Service on behalf of the Policing Authority.

The salary of the Garda Commissioner was increased to €250,000 a year from €180,000 in order to attract interest in the position.

Mr Harris’s appointment comes just under a year after the retirement of former commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan.

Irish Independent

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