Northern Ireland news

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris has 'no fear' of political accountability over RUC past

New Garda Commissioner Drew Harris during a press conference at Garda Headquarters in Dublin. Picture by Liam McBurney/PA Wire.
Paul Ainsworth

New Garda Commissioner Drew Harris says he has "no fear" of politicians bringing up his RUC past in a bid to discredit him.

In interviews with Sunday newspapers, the Co Antrim-born former PSNI Deputy Chief Costable has insisted he will "hold faithfully" to his new responsibilities as the head of An Garda Siochana after being sworn into the role last week.

Mr Harris was a 24-year-old RUC officer in 1989 when his father, RUC superintendent Alwyn Harris, was murdered by the IRA, whose members attached a bomb to his car at the family home in Lisburn. The 55-year-old died instantly, while his wife, who was also in the vehicle at the time, survived the blast.

However, the new Garda Commissioner said his links to the RUC will play no role in his relationship with politicians, despite previous claims by Sinn Féin's Martin McGuinness that the 2014 arrest of Gerry Adams over the murder of Jean McConville was Harris wanting to "settle old scores".

Speaking to the Sunday Independent, Mr Harris - who signed the arrest warrant for Adams - said: "You have to follow the evidence and conduct your inquiries. At times, policing comes down to following through and conducting your duties and it's not always an easy thing to do."

Mr Harris insisted he had no concerns over pressure from Sinn Féin, whose leader, Mary Lou McDonald, last week said he must "demonstrate that he in no way subscribes to the toxic, vindictive policing culture which necessitated the disbandment of the RUC".

He continued: "I'm here for all the right reasons, as is An Garda Siochana, and we are here to protect society and I have no fear of political accountability or indeed commentary because as far as I'm concerned we and I will always be doing the right thing."

Referring to his father in an interview with the Sunday Times, he said: "My father would have been very proud of me, the way any father would be of their son."

Speaking of his new responsibilities, Mr Harris told the Sunday Independent that fresh focus would be placed on growing concerns such as human trafficking and cyber crime, as well as "degrading" organised gangs such as that run by Dublin's Christy Kinahan by disrupting its cash flow.

He also warned that Brexit posed a significant challenge for his force, due to the ongoing uncertainty about the impact on the Irish border.

The Commissioner said: "There is already an economic border there which allows smuggling to flourish and evasion or revenue or taxation to become a real money-spinner, but even beyond that, once those tariffs start opening up more, the obviously there is more profit to be made around smuggling of goods - and then different goods come into play."

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