Garda Commissioner Drew Harris has done "an exemplary job" and is "rightly held in high esteem by the public", the Minister for Justice, Helen McEntee, has said, following the Cabinet's decision to extend his term of office.
The former Police Service of Northern Ireland deputy chief constable and RUC officer, who was sworn into the State's most senior policing role in 2018, was due to stand down next September.
However, the Cabinet approved the Minister’s request on Tuesday that he be allowed to remain in office until June 2025, under the current statutory retirement age for gardaí, at the age of 60.
"The extension of the commissioner's term of office will bring a welcome clarity and continuity of leadership to An Garda Síochána through the vital period ahead," the Minister declared.
‘Best possible policing’
Saying he was "delighted", Mr Harris said it was "a great privilege and honour to be Garda Commissioner", but he emphasised that more needed to be done to advance the "great progress" made to develop a "human-rights-focused policing and security service".
Blaming the pandemic for putting "on hold" some reforms, he said, "I look forward to leading An Garda Síochána in providing the best possible policing and security service to the people of Ireland. "
Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors general secretary Antoinette Cunningham said the Cabinet's decision to extend the commissioner's term of office was both "prudent and proactive".
“We are emerging from two years of significant disruption due to the pandemic, but similarly major disruption to the Garda organisation’s transformation plans,” she said, “There is much work to do.”
‘Controversial in the past’
Sinn Féin's justice spokesman Martin Kenny said Mr Harris's past career in the Royal Ulster Constabulary and the PSNI has been "controversial in the past", especially his testimony to the Smithwick tribunal.
“But having said that, in my dealings with him, I found him to be co-operative and positive, whether on public issues with the gardaí or internal Garda issues. So I don’t have an issue with him staying on.
“He had a lot of challenges, in bringing a sense of balance and restoring trust among the public. Trust in the gardaí, to a lot of members of the public, has been breached. He has a job of work to do around that,” said Mr Kenny.
Citing the penalty points and 999 calls controversies, Mr Kenny said that major reforms of An Garda Síochána were still needed: “Many people feel there is a shadow of a culture still there. I certainly have experienced that.”
“Sweeping reforms are needed. There is an awful lot of work to be done. While legislation can make changes, it is really about a change in culture. I think a lot of the younger members of the service are up for that, but there is still a reticence among some [older members] to address poor practices from the past,” he said.