Dublin’s acceptance of Drew Harris is a welcome sign of change

News Letter editorial
News Letter editorial

In some respects cross-border relations are worse than they have been since Charlie Haughey left office as Taoiseach for the last time, more than 25 years ago.

Brexit has soured relations between Britain, Dublin, unionists and nationalists.

The Irish say that it is Britain’s fault for opting to quit the European Union without any thought for this island.

The British think that Dublin is to blame because its uncompromising stance on the land border ‘backstop’ has brought forward the prospect of a disorderly Brexit.

Meanwhile, Simon Coveney in particular has (in effect) made clear that the Irish will not accept direct rule, which seems to be one reason why London is so terrified by it.

But it would be a mistake for unionists not to recognise the dramatic ways in which the Republic has changed.

The influence of the Catholic Church has almost collapsed, as earthquakes on social issues south of the border have shown.

And the appointment of Drew Harris as Garda commissioner has not only been approved, but a legal challenge against his elevation has been dismissed by the High Court in Dublin.

With multiple Irish ministers in recent years demanding a public inquiry into the murder of one of the 3,700 dead of the Troubles, Pat Finucane, Dublin has seemed to give weight to the ‘collusion’ narrative of the past that so many of the contributors to our Stop The Legacy Scandal series of essays are rightly disputing.

But if the Irish establishment really, truly believed that the RUC was a murderous, gangster, anti Catholic, loyalist militia, as the propagandists of Sinn Fein like to insist, then they would not accept for one minute a past member of that force as the head of their own police.

That this has not been the way that Mr Harris’s application has been treated is a welcome recognition across the island of this Cambridge graduate’s distinguished CV in a police organisations (RUC then PSNI) that have done so much to save life and property from terrorism.