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Legal challenge to prevent Drew Harris becoming Garda Commissioner gets under way

Harris ‘lacks the independence’ to fulfill the State’s top policing role, it’s being claimed.

Drew Harris
Drew Harris
Image: Brian Lawless

CIARAN MACAIRT, WHOSE grandmother Kathleen Irvine was one of 15 people murdered in one of the worst atrocities of the Troubles, was in the High Court today to seek leave to challenge the appointment of PSNI Deputy Chief Constable Drew Harris as the next Garda Commissioner.

The application for leave to bring a Judicial Review of the Government’s appointment will be heard later today by Mr Justice Denis McDonald.

The legal bid is being mounted on the grounds that Harris lacks the independence required to be Garda Commissioner due to his roles in the RUC and the PSNI.

Ciaran MacAirt’s grandmother was killed when a loyalist bomb exploded at McGurk’s Bar in Belfast in December 1971.

Her grandson, a researcher represented by barrister Gerard Humphreys, who appears with Ruadhan MacAodhain of McGeehin Toale Solicitors, claims Harris cannot become Commissioner of An Garda Síochána because he possesses information directly relevant to Garda investigations into the murder of Irish citizens during the Troubles and is bound by the UK’s Official Secrets Act.

He alleges that Harris could not direct or control any ongoing investigation into the murder of an Irish citizen where there is credible evidence of collusion between the killers by the RUC or agencies of the British state, including the Dublin Monaghan bombings.

The new Garda Commissioner is due to be sworn in to the top police job in the Republic on 3 September next.

Ciaran MacAirt’s challenge is being opposed by the State and the Garda Síochána whose legal team is being led by Reme Farrell SC.

MacAirt claims that due to his senior role with the PSNI, Harris has possession of information directly relevant to Garda investigations into the murder of Irish citizens during the Troubles.

He claims Harris has signed and is bound by the UK’s Official Secrets Act – making it impossible to fully discharge his duties as the next Garda Commissioner.

This conflict, it is claimed, is incompatible with the duties of Section 5 of the Garda Síochána Act, in particular regarding State security and the investigation of crime.

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

He claims that 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.

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About the author:

Ray Managh and Aodhan O'Faolain

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