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Sunday 16 June 2019

Garda chief says sorry to McCabe and thanks him for 'helping policing'

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris arrives at Leinster House for a meeting of the Oireachtas Justice Committee. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins
Garda Commissioner Drew Harris arrives at Leinster House for a meeting of the Oireachtas Justice Committee. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris has apologised in person to Sergeant Maurice McCabe in the wake of the Disclosures Tribunal which found that the whistleblower had been smeared by senior officers.

Mr Harris met Sgt McCabe yesterday afternoon, thanking him for his public service in raising concerns that helped to improve policing and apologising on behalf of the force.

The Disclosures Tribunal found that Sgt McCabe - who had highlighted abuses in the penalty points system -had been smeared by former Garda commissioner Martin Callinan. Mr Harris's meeting with Mr McCabe came after he told the Oireachtas Justice Committee he will encourage whistleblowers to come forward and will treat their concerns with the "utmost seriousness".

He said that the findings of Mr Justice Peter Charleton and the Disclosures Tribunal are a "clarion call" for action.

He said "cultural change comes from behavioural change". He said his senior team will lead this, including emphasising the code of conduct and "completely overhauling" disciplinary procedures which he agreed "aren't fit for purpose".

He said there should be interventions for poor performance involving support, supervision and extra training. He said in cases of serious misconduct "where your trust in an individual is entirely broken, then they have no place in the organisation".

Mr Harris, a former PSNI deputy chief constable, said that since he took up his role last month he has noted the commitment of Garda members to public service. But he also spoke of the need for investment in IT, saying this had happened in the PSNI 15 years ago. Mr Harris also said some stations are "tired", "run-down" and "pretty crowded". He said these issues are being attended to and investment is being made.

Mr Harris was questioned by Sinn Féin TD Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire on concerns for national security due to his previous responsibility for intelligence in the PSNI, a role involving liaising with MI5. He also asked if there is a contradiction between being bound by the official secrets acts in both the UK and Ireland.

Mr Harris said he swore to defend and secure the State when he took his oath as Garda Commissioner and said: "Those are obligations I take very seriously."

He added that he doesn't see where a problem arises in relation to the official secrets acts. He said the Garda and PSNI have similar approaches to dealing with terrorism and organised crime.

Fianna Fáil's Jack Chambers asked Mr Harris if he felt that some of the questions posed by Mr Ó Laoghaire were of "sectarian prejudice".

"Have you felt that certain elements are trying to undermine your position?" he added.

Mr Harris said he has addressed questions that have been subject to much commentary, some of which had been "ill-founded".

Sinn Féin Senator Niall Ó Donnghaile said his party wasn't alone in raising what he argued are "legitimate" questions.

Irish Independent

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