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High Court dismisses case to prevent Drew Harris becoming next Garda Commissioner

Belfast based researcher Ciaran MacAirt had asked the High Court to judicially review the Irish Government’s decision to appoint Harris.

File Photo Drew Harris
File Photo Drew Harris
Image: Leah Farrell via Rollingnews

A HIGH COURT judge has dismissed an action aimed at blocking the PSNI’s Deputy Chief Constable Drew Harris from becoming the next Garda Commissioner.

Belfast based researcher Ciaran MacAirt, whose grandmother Kathleen Irvine was one of 15 people killed when a loyalist bomb exploded at McGurk’s Bar in Belfast in December 1971, had asked the High Court to judicially review the Irish Government’s decision to appoint Harris.

In his judgement this morning Justice Denis McDonald said MacAirt had not reached the legal threshold required that would allow the challenge go before a full hearing of the High Court.

No arguable grounds to suggest the action had a prospect of a success had been established, the court found.

The Judge said he had considerable sympathy for MacAirt whose family were among the many victims of the Troubles.

However, the judge said the action was “fundamentally flawed” and could not proceed because it did not seek to challenge, and had ignored the statutory process used to identify and select candidates for the position of Garda Commissioner.

The Judge also rejected all grounds advanced by MacAirt, including that Harris was compromised by the fact that he had signed the British Offical Secrets Act in his role with both the PSNI and the RUC.

The Judge also ordered that MacAirt, whose lawyers argued that no order for costs should be made as the case was brought in the public interest and in good faith, pay the State’s legal costs.

The decision clears the way for Harris to take up his role as Commissioner of An Garda Siochana, which he is due to commence on September 3.

MacAirt is understood to be considering appealing the decision to the Court of Appeal.

The State had opposed the application and argued MacAirt’s action was “unstateable”, “novel” and should be dismissed.

Its barrister Remy Farrell SC argued MacAirt’s case was “nothing more than an expression of an opinion” that the applicant does not agree with Harris’s appointment.

In his proceedings against the Minister for Justice, Ireland and the Attorney General, McAirt had sought various orders including one quashing the decision to appoint Harris as Commissioner of An Garda Siochana.

He also sought various declarations including that the Irish State is obliged to conduct independent investigations murders of Irish citizens where there is credible evidence of collusion.

He further sought a declaration that due to his obligations under the UK’s Offical Secrets Act and his role in the protection of the PSNI, the RUC and other agencies of the UK Harris would be incapable of controlling an independent investigation into the murder of Irish citizens where collusion between loyalist terror gangs and British security forces was alleged.

Gerard Humphreys Bl, instructed by McGeehin Toale Solicitors for MacAirt argued Harris lacked the independence required to be Garda Commissioner due to this role in the PSNI and its predecessor the RUC.

MacAirt said he was shocked by the decision to appoint Harris, says he was written a book about and researched the McGurk’s bombing and is a director of the Charity Paper Trail which supports victims and survivors of the Troubles.

He claimed he has been trying to establish the truth behind the bombing.

The RUC initially blamed it on an IRA bomb being accidentally detonated when in fact the bomb was deliberately planted in the bar by the UVF.

MacAirt claims there was never a proper investigation into the bombing, and claims there was RUC cover-up in regards to what happened.

He claimed his efforts to find the truth have been frustrated by the PSNI, and have been consistently obstructed by Harris.

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About the author:

Aodhan O'Faolain & Ray Managh

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