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Northern Ireland news

Leo Varadkar: Sinn Féin 'trying to undermine' new Garda Commissioner Drew Harris

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has hit out at Sinn Féin's Mary Lou McDonald. Picture by Brian Lawless/PA Wire

TAOISEACH Leo Varadkar has accused Sinn Féin of trying to undermine the newly-appointed Garda commissioner before he takes office.

Speaking in the Dáil today, Mr Varadkar said he found Sinn Fein's attitude to be "a little disappointing" after Mary Lou McDonald raised questions about the appointment of PSNI deputy chief constable Drew Harris.

Mr Harris was announced as the new Garda Commissioner on Tuesday following the resignation of Noirin O'Sullivan. He will take up office in September.

Ms McDonald said her party wants to work constructively with the new Garda Commissioner, but that they will "hold him to account".

She raised comments made by Stephen Travers, a survivor of the Miami Showband massacre, who described the appointment as "catastrophic" to the nationalist community in Northern Ireland.

Three members of the showband were murdered by the Ulster Volunteer Force in July 1975.

"Mr Travers spoke of RUC collusion and the old RUC culture of political policing and cover-up," she told the Dáil.

"He regards Mr Harris as part of that culture which has denied people the truth.

"Similar concerns have been voiced by the Relatives for Justice campaign group.

"They say Mr Harris has, and I quote, 'at every opportunity sought to thwart families in their search for truth and accountability, that he has had a stranglehold on legacy matters'."

Drew Harris was announced as the new Garda Commissioner on Tuesday. Picture by Pacemaker

Ms McDonald added that Mr Harris "must earn the confidence and trust of the public" and called for him to "demonstrate he in no way subscribes" to the "toxic" and "vindictive" policing culture of the disbanded RUC.

But Mr Varadkar hit out at Ms McDonald's comments, accusing of her of being "almost in the space of trying to undermine confidence in the new Garda commissioner before he’s even taken up office".

He said Mr Harris's appointment was "very much" in line with policing reforms which the Republic's government introduced.

He added that he was "a little bit disappointed" by Ms McDonald's position.

"I think Drew Harris is someone who can bring about better policing in Ireland, policing our communities better, and greater accountability on behalf of the gardai," he said.

"He's familiar with the policing accountability mechanisms, such as the policing board that exists in Northern Ireland."

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