Harris will need time to prove his critics wrong

Posted By: June 27, 2018

Allison Morris. Irish News. Belfast. Wednesday, 27, 2018

FROM the day he posted his application, PSNI Deputy Chief Constable Drew Harris was always going to be favorite for the post of Garda Commissioner.

The force is in disarray, the last two commissioners having retired amid public controversies.

It is now undergoing a period of rapid change, the kind of reforms not far off the scale of the Patten transformation of the RUC to PSNI and the fact that Mr. Harris was a senior policing figure at that time will no doubt have gone in his favor.

This is the first time a commissioner has been appointed from outside An Garda Síochána, and that is significant – he fought off competition from several experienced candidates including two serving assistant commissioners.

It seems that recent scandals – subject to scrutiny by the Disclosures Tribunal in the Republic – have created the appetite for an outside appointment.

The ongoing gangland feud in the Republic, an increase in drug and gun crime, along with policing issues posed by Brexit, will also mean Mr. Harris will have to hit the ground running.

As someone who has worked in policing for 35 years, he is more than qualified, but his success will depend on winning the support of officers on the ground.

Not everyone has welcomed Mr. Harris’s appointment. Having been in charge of the PSNI’s intelligence branch, he has worked closely with MI5 in the past and was responsible for dealing with disclosure in relation to inquests into state killings.

Mr. Harris lost his father in an IRA bomb attack in 1989, but despite being a victim himself, his biggest critics have been among the nationalist victims’ community.

This is a crucial time for An Garda Síochána. Whether a former RUC man can be the one to deliver the necessary reforms and restore confidence in policing in the Republic will take time to establish.