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Wednesday 4 October 2023 Dublin: 14°C
Brian Lawless Drew Harris
# New Role
PSNI Deputy Chief Constable Drew Harris named as new Garda Commissioner
Nóirín O’Sullivan stepped down from her role in September 2017.

LAST UPDATE | Jun 26th 2018, 8:57 PM

PSNI DEPUTY CHIEF Constable Drew Harris been named as the new Garda Commissioner.

The role has been overseen by Acting Garda Commissioner Dónall O Cualáin since the former commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan announced her retirement in September 2017.

The Garda Commissioner is responsible for the general direction and control of An Garda Síochána, and reports to the Minister for Justice.

To fill the role, Minister Charlie Flanagan had to consult with the chair of the Policing Authority about a process to identify and appoint a permanent successor to O’Sullivan.

Drew Harris is currently Deputy Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) and a statement today said his appointment “follows an open, international selection process run by the Public Appointments Service on behalf of the Policing Authority”.

This is the first time that this new model for the appointment process, introduced in 2015, has been used.

The selection process was designed with the objective of attracting the widest possible field of candidates from a broad range of backgrounds to ensure that the successful candidate would be tested against international standards in police leadership.

Harris is a former RUC officer and received an OBE in 2010. He was previously responsible for the PSNI’s Crime Operations Department. He also held the ACPO Hate Crime portfolio for eight years, and led PSNI initiatives where he took responsibility for the management of sex offenders and the introduction of Public Protection Units.

He also spent a two-year secondment in the rank of Superintendent to Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary, Scotland. He holds a BA degree in Politics and Economics and an M St in Criminology.

The PSNI said that  Harris “has always been focused in protecting the vulnerable in society from serious harm”.

‘Rigorous selection process’

Announcing the appointment, Minister Flanagan said:

“I am pleased that the rigorous selection process by the Public Appointments Service on behalf of the Policing Authority has come to a successful conclusion with the appointment today by Government of Drew Harris as the next Garda Commissioner with the full functions of that role including safeguarding the security of the State. I thank both the Policing Authority and the Public Appointments Service for their intensive work on this important process over the past 10 months.”

He went on: “Drew takes up office at a time of major reform and investment which will redefine An Garda Síochána as an organisation. As we approach the centenary of the establishment of An Garda Síochána, the organisation is on the cusp of significant change. The expert Commission on the Future of Policing is in the final stages of its work; its report will chart a new model for Irish policing in the decades ahead. Drew will take up the post of Commissioner in September and this will come at a critical time – coinciding with the conclusion of the work of the Commission.”

Minister Flanagan said that he is “confident that Drew Harris has the necessary ability and vital policing, security and change management experience required”.

He will bring these talents to his leadership of An Garda Síochána – one of our most important institutions of state – along with a commitment to serving the public in the best tradition of the Gardaí.

“I very much look forward to working with Drew on our shared objective of ensuring the security of the State and the safety of the public,” said the Minister. “Drew can be assured of my support and that of the Government as he faces the challenge of transforming An Garda Síochána so that it becomes a model of policing excellence, equipped to deal with the huge range of challenges facing police services worldwide.”

On taking up the post, Harris will make a solemn declaration under section 16 of the Garda Síochána Act 2005 including to uphold the Constitution and the laws of the State on the day that his appointment takes effect.

RTÉ has reported that Harris’ father, RUC Superintendent Alwyn Harris, was killed in an explosion in 1989 after the IRA planted a bomb under his parents’ car, parked outside their home near Lisburn.

The Garda Representative Association (GRA) has welcomed the appointment of Harris.

“We are particularly pleased to note that Mr Harris is both a police officer and one with proven senior operational and management experience on the island. Mr Harris has worked very closely with An Garda Síochána over many years and so is likely to better understand policing issues as they present themselves across the country,” the GRA said in a statement.

The GRA noted a number of issues that it says need to be addressed by the new Commissioner.

“From IT systems, recruitment, supervision, equipment and training down to the current garda uniform which is not fit for purpose, all stakeholders are fully aware of what needs to be done,” it said.

“The organisation of An Garda Síochána is a large ship that has been listless for some time now without a permanent captain. Government must now provide Mr Harris and his team with all the financial support to ensure that these critical changes are made without delay.”

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said Harris is the “best person for the job”, adding that the government are delighted with his appointment.

When asked by the media about Harris working closely with MI5, Varadkar said as part of the recruitment process “background checks and security clearance that you would expect to be done in terms of due diligence” were carried out.

“We are absolutely confident the new commissioner will be loyal to the police and loyal to the State,” he said.

Acting Commissioner Ó Cualáin will continue to lead An Garda Síochána until then, and has notified the Minister of his intention to retire at that time.

Minister Flanagan said he wants “to acknowledge the leadership, integrity and commitment of Acting Commissioner Dónall Ó Cualáin”.

The Government is very grateful to him for his dedication to duty and effective leadership of the organisation since last September. He has been a steady hand at the tiller in difficult times for the organisation ably supported by Deputy Commissioner John Twomey. They have led An Garda Síochána to significant success in targeting and disrupting the abhorrent activities of criminal gangs over the past year while also making progress on the challenging reform agenda.

The Chairperson of the Policing Authority, Josephine Feehily welcomed the news and said that the process of selecting the new commissioner “was comprehensive and thorough, as befits the significance of the position”.

“It was very heartening for the Authority that very many candidates, both internal and external, presented themselves for consideration for such an important role,” she said.

She thanked and complimented the Public Appointments Service “for the professional manner in which the selection competition was carried out”.

Feehily said that the Authority, having reviewed the process and considered his experience, qualifications and expertise, “was very satisfied to nominate Drew Harris for appointment by the Government”.

With reporting by Hayley Halpin

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