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Donegal County Council passes motion saying Drew Harris should not be hired

The councillor who brought forward the motion said it will now be forwarded to every council in Ireland.

Drew Harris Garda appointment Drew Harris. Source: Brian Lawless

DONEGAL COUNTY COUNCIL has passed a motion calling on the Minister for Justice to cancel the appointment of the new Garda Commissioner, Drew Harris, because of his previous links to British Intelligence services and his role in shutting down an independent probe which was investigating the activities of the so-called Glenanne gang.

The motion cited a Belfast High Court judgment by Mr Justice Seamus Treacy which found that the PSNI’s decision to shut down the Historic Enquiries Team (HET) investigation into the activities of the loyalist gang was inconsistent with the police force’s human rights obligations.

The gang, which operated mostly in Armagh and Tyrone, has been blamed for more than 100 killings during the 1970s and 1980s. Drew Harris was in charge of legacy investigations in the PSNI when the probe was halted.

Treacy’s judgment, which came in July 2017, prompted the victims’ support group Relatives for Justice to call for Harris to resign from his then role as Deputy Chief of the PSNI .

New Garda Commissioner Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan (left) and Garda Commissioner Drew Harris. Source: Niall Carson

Donegal motion

Harris is set to officially take up his new role as Garda Commissioner in early September. The motion calling for his appointment to be cancelled was passed at a meeting of Donegal County Council on Monday.

It was brought forward by Independent councillor Micheál Choilm Mac Giolla Easbuig and seconded by Councillor Frank McBrearty Jnr.

An amendment proposed by Sinn Féin was deemed too different from the original motion and was ruled out-of-order by Cathaoirleach Seamus Ó Domhnaill.

Councillors from Sinn Féin, Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil raised concerns about the motion but, as no counter-motion was proposed, the motion was passed.

In passing the motion the Cathaoirleach noted that many of the council’s 37 councillors said that they abstained. Three councillors spoke in favour of the motion.

“I didn’t expect it to pass. That to me clearly states that there’s huge concerns in relation to this appointment,” Councillor Mac Giolla Easbuig told TheJournal.ie.

The motion will now be circulated to all councils in the 26 counties and they will have to vote on it.

Mac Giolla Easbuig said he plans to hold public meetings to speak against the appointment in Dublin, Monaghan and Donegal.

The councillor explained that his reservations are based on Justice Treacy’s judgement last year and Harris having worked with MI5 as part of his previous role.

The council will now write to the Minister for Justice, Charlie Flanagan, to register its concerns about Harris’s appointment.

Harris has 35 years experience in policing. He is a former RUC officer and received an OBE in 2010. Before being appointed deputy chief constable of the PSNI in 2014 he was head of the department that targeted dissident republican activity.

He was also the officer in charge of the investigation that saw Gerry Adams arrested in 2014. The former Sinn Féin president was arrested by detectives investigating the 1972 murder of Jean McConville. He was released without charge.

TheJournal.ie has contacted the Department of Justice about the motion but it has yet to receive a response. A spokesman for the gardaí said it does not comment on third party statements.

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Ceimin Burke

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