WHAT a lot of An Garda Síochána’s most trenchant critics have sought is about to become a reality with the appointment of an outsider from the force as its new Commissioner. The fact that Drew Harris, who is leaving his post as Deputy Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) to take up the role of Garda Commissioner, means that the job is going to a policeman rather than a civilian.
Recent appointments of Commissioners from within the ranks of An Gárda Síochána have been short-lived and unsatisfactory in that they have taken down Ministers for Justice – rather unfairly – with them as Alan Shatter and Frances Fitzgerald can testify. The theory that ‘a new broom sweeps clean’ will be tested in Mr Harris’ case as he takes over the leadership of a police force that has become mired in controversy after controversy, mostly of its own making.
The pending report of the Commission on the Future of Policing is due to coincide with his taking up office at the start of September. What is clearly needed most of all in An Garda Síochána is greater accountability.
Mr Harris’ personal experience of the Troubles in Northern Ireland, during which his Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) superintendent father was killed by an IRA car bomb, is highly relevant to his new role and his experience in the setting up of the PSNI in the wake of the disbandment of the much-maligned RUC should prove valuable also.