Rank and file gardaí welcome Drew Harris surprise appointment to lead Garda

Announcement said to have caught senior officers by surprise, sources say

Drew Harris at Government Buildings in Dublin on Tuesday. The GRA said Mr Harris worked closely with the Garda in recent years, a factor it believed recommended him to lead the force. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Drew Harris at Government Buildings in Dublin on Tuesday. The GRA said Mr Harris worked closely with the Garda in recent years, a factor it believed recommended him to lead the force. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

 

Rank and file gardaí have welcomed the appointment of PSNI Deputy Chief Constable Drew Harris as Garda Commissioner.

Some Garda sources said there was “surprise” and “shock” that an external candidate had been selected.

However, many of the same sources said if Mr Harris spoke out about the need for Government to commit more resources for policing, surprise at his appointment would turn to a welcome.

The Garda Representative Association (GRA) said Mr Harris had worked closely with the Garda in recent years, a factor it believed recommended him to lead the Garda force.

“We are particularly pleased to note that Mr Harris is both a police officer and one with proven senior operational and management experience on the island,” said the association, which represents about 10,000 rank and file gardaí in force of just over 13,000.

“Mr Harris has worked very closely with An Garda Síochána over many years and so is likely to better understand policing issues as they present themselves across the country.

Recruitment

“The issues that need to be addressed by the new commissioner are well known following report after report in recent years. From IT systems, recruitment, supervision, equipment and training down to the current Garda uniform which is not fit for purpose; all stakeholders are fully aware of what needs to be done,” the GRA said.

“The organisation of An Garda Síochána is a large ship that has been listless for some time now without a permanent captain.

“Government must now provide Mr Harris and his team with all the financial support to ensure that these critical changes are made without delay.

“Then, and only then, will we truly have an organisation that enjoys as much public trust and support, as does its frontline officers.”

The Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors was due to comment on the appointment today after a scheduled meeting of its national executive at its Dublin offices.

The Association of Garda Superintendents had not commented on the appointment last night but was expected to do so as early as today.

Not leaked

The appointment of Mr Harris was announced in a statement from the Department of Justice on Tuesday just after noon. Unusually, news of his appointment had not leaked out in the media or on social media in advance.

The Irish Times understands Garda Headquarters in the Phoenix Park, Dublin, was unaware the announcement was being made and learned of it at the same time as the media.

Several sources said some of the most senior officers in the force were surprised.

Assistant Commissioner Pat Leahy was addressing a gathering of Garda members in Westmanstown, Co Dublin, when the news emerged.

Mr Leahy had applied for the post and some of those at the event where he spoke believed he had been caught by surprise by the announcement.

Mr Leahy and Deputy Commissioner John Twomey were the only two internal candidates to get through to the last stage of the competition.