Minister refuses to delay Garda Commissioner’s appointment

TD claims Drew Harris may be ‘arrested’ over failure to hand over Glennane gang files

Bríd Smith the appointment of Drew Harris is like sticking a knife in the backs of some relatives of victims of violence in the North.

Bríd Smith the appointment of Drew Harris is like sticking a knife in the backs of some relatives of victims of violence in the North.

 

Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan has rejected a call for the appointment of new Garda Commissioner Drew Harris to be delayed until he addressed the concerns of families in a number of cases in the Troubles.

Mr Flanagan was responding to People Before Profit TD Bríd Smith who has raised concerns of the Relatives for Justice campaign group, the only survivor of the Miami Showband massacre Steven Travers and Eugene Reavey whose three brothers were killed by the Glennane gang.

This was a group of UVF, Ulster Defence Regiment and RUC officers allegedly involved in up to 120 killings between the 1970s and 1990s.

Ms Smith said that for the families “the appointment of Drew Harris is like sticking a knife in their backs”.

She also called for the Minister and Mr Harris to attend a commemoration this month to mark the 43rd anniversary of the showband massacre and to meet the families.

Ms Smith said that last year “after blocking the issuing of files for six years to families, Mr Harris was ordered to hand them over within 12 months”.

A number of them were handed over but she said Mr Harris refused to hand over two relating to the Glennane gang and the man known as the Jackal.

There could be a court case arising from this and a possibility that Mr Harris “may be arrested and brought before the courts in the North to give evidence there in a court case”.

But Mr Flanagan told her “I’m not going to comment on any court decision in Northern Ireland any more than I would comment on any court decision here”.

He said: “I won’t be delaying the appointment of Mr Drew Harris nor indeed will the Government”.

Mr Harris’s appointment was particularly significant because he is the first person to be appointed from outside the State since An Garda Síochána was founded almost 100 years ago.

Mr Flanagan said he wanted to repeat that “the new Commissioner is a person of huge ability and of the highest integrity” who had worked in the PSNI on its transformation following the peace process.

The Minister said the Garda authorities “will continue to co-operate with the Police Service of Northern Ireland in respect of all relevant criminal investigations, whether contemporary or historical, in accordance with the arrangements in place”.