Early start as 
ex-RUC officer begins Garda job

Drew Harris has begun his new career as Garda commissioner — at one minute past midnight.

Acting Garda commissioner Donall O Cualain stepped down from his role at 00.01am on Monday, and in line with the Garda Siochana Act, Mr Harris was attested as Garda commissioner and immediately took up the role.

Drew Harris, whose policeman father was murdered by the IRA in 1989, served as PSNI deputy chief constable for the past four years

Drew Harris, whose policeman father was murdered by the IRA in 1989, served as PSNI deputy chief constable for the past four years

The attestation took place in Kevin Street Divisional Headquarters, Dublin.

In keeping with tradition for such occasions, it was a private meeting with a small number of people present.

Mr Harris, 53, was attested by a Peace Commissioner and signed the Garda Code of Ethics and the Official Secrets Act. He will now take charge of An Garda Siochana from his office in Garda Headquarters in Dublin’s Phoenix Park.

He is responsible to the minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform Charlie Flanagan for the service.

The commissioner has a private secretary in the form of a superintendent, together with an administrative staff.

Mr Harris, the former deputy chief constable of the PSNI, is a father of four who joined the RUC in 1983.

His father, RUC superintendent Alwyn Harris, was murdered in an IRA car bomb in 1989 at the age of 51 on his way to a church service near the family’s Lisburn home.

Mr Harris has been PSNI deputy chief constable for the past four years.

He has relinquished his sworn oath to serve Northern Ireland and the United Kingdom, and has switched allegiance to the Garda and Republic of Ireland.

Mr Harris has also applied for an Irish passport.

His salary of around €180,000 (£162,000) jumps to €250,000 (£225,000) as Garda commissioner, and he will travel in an armoured vehicle as he is considered a target for dissident republicans.

The appointment of Mr Harris has been the subject of controversy. Last month, Ciaran MacAirt applied to the High Court for a judicial review into the government’s decision to appoint Mr Harris.

Mr MacAirt’s grandmother, Kathleen Irvine, was one of 15 people killed by an explosion at McGurk’s Bar in Belfast in 1971. The bomb was planted by the UVF but the RUC initially blamed the IRA, saying the bomb exploded accidentally.

Mr MacAirt argued that because of Mr Harris’s oath to the UK’s Officials Secrets Act, he could not independently stand over any inquiry involving alleged collusion between the British security service and loyalist terrorists.

The court rejected Mr MacAirt’s application.

Mr Harris takes over from Mr O’Cualain, who has held the acting role since previous commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan announced her retirement last year.

An Garda Siochana has been labelled as in dire need of reform. False breath test figures, missing homicide data, issues with finances at Templemore training college and the Disclosures Tribunal all face Mr Harris in the role.