Subscriber OnlyPolitics

Busy Cabinet schedule as Garda chief named

Inside Politics: Government desperate to show it can pass Bills through Dail, says insider

New Garda commissioner Drew Harris. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

It won’t last forever, so enjoy the good weather while it’s here. But spare a thought for those who toil in Leinster House in these final weeks of a seemingly unending political term.

The Government is desperate to advance a whack load of Bills – in order, says one insider, to show it can actually pass some stuff through the Dail – so a fortnight of late nights, as well as Friday sittings (Fridays!), is in store for unfortunate deputies.

Yesterday's Cabinet had a busy agenda, too. Top of the list was the appointment of a new Garda commissioner, which makes our lead story today.

For the first time, it is to be someone from outside the force. Drew Harris, currently deputy chief constable of the PSNI, will take up the €250k a year post in the autumn. He was presented to the media at Government Buildings yesterday but took no questions.


Our profile on Harris ishere.

Our editorial says he has a mammoth task ahead of him.

After two sudden commissioner retirements and more than a decade of Garda scandals, an outside appointment is not unexpected. But it is still historic.

One of the questions is how will Sinn Fein react to the appointment of a PSNI, ex-RUC officer who dealt closely with MI5 in the North. The party said yesterday it would “hold him to account”.

But relations between Harris and Sinn Fein have not been good, and Ed Moloney has a fascinating piece on Harris, the murder of Tom Oliver and Gerry Adams on our op-ed page.

In the North, the past is never really the past.

Convicted Lowry’s ‘fantastic result’

But not all the action is in Leinster House. The courts are busy too. Two reports catch the eye this morning. Independent TD Michael Lowry was convicted of two tax offences, while the jury said it was unable to reach a verdict on four others. Another charge was withdrawn during the trial.

Although convicted, fined and disqualified as a company director for three years, the judge said some complimentary things about Lowry. He is, the judge said, a “conscientious taxpayer”.

He had no previous convictions, was a good employer and a very good public representative, the judge said, adding: “The proof of the pudding is in the eating. He has been re-elected.”

Despite his conviction, Mr Lowry was quite chuffed afterwards. It was, he said, “a fantastic result”.

So what was all this about? Is there background to this curious case? You bet there is. But it is not straightforward. The Moriarty tribunal gets a mention, or two. As does Denis O'Brien. Colm Keena is on the job.

As the Lowry case was ending, another case was starting. A legal challenge to the abortion referendum got under way in the High Court, alleging all manner of malfeasance, tomfoolery, skulduggery and general acting the maggot during the campaign which, the petitioners say, means the result cannot be given legal effect.

In other words, the result of the referendum should be set aside. Fearsome beak Peter Kelly, president of the High Court, will adjudicate on this matter with all the Solomon-like wisdom he customarily brings to such matters.

But a successful challenge is unlikely. What it does achieve, however, is delaying the bringing of the legislation to the Dail before the summer recess as the Government had hoped.

Mary Carolan's report is here.

The petitioner reckons Simon Harris and Leo Varadkar “duped” the people into voting Yes. The case continues today, as they say.