Taoiseach accuses Sinn Féin of 'almost trying to undermine confidence' in new Garda Commissioner
THE Taoiseach has accused Sinn Féin’s position on the appointment of a new Garda Commissioner of being “almost in the space of trying to undermine confidence” in him before he’s even taken up office.
Leo Varadkar told the Dáil that he is “disappointed” with the rival party’s approach after Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald raised questions about the appointment of PSNI deputy chief constable Drew Harris.
The former RUC officer, whose father was murdered by the IRA, was announced as the new Garda Commissioner yesterday.
Ms McDonald said her party wants to work constructively with Mr Harris and acknowledged that he “comes to this job with his own story of loss and pain from the conflict in the North” which cannot be minimised.
She said the concerns raised by “victims of British State collusion” also can’t be minimised and she raised remarks made by Stephen Travers, a survivor of the Miami Showband Massacre, on RTÉ Radio.
She said that Mr Travers spoke of RUC collusion and said he regards Mr Harris as “part of that culture which has denied people the truth”.
Ms McDonald said similar concerns have been expressed by the Relatives for Justice campaign group who have claimed that Mr Harris has sought to “thwart” families’ search for truth and accountability.
She said Mr Harris’s job must be to deliver radical reform in the Gardaí and to do this he must earn the confidence of the public.
She said: “He has to demonstrate that he in no way subscribes to the toxic, vindictive policing culture which necessitated the disbandment of the RUC.”
And she asked Mr Varadkar what assurances he could give that Mr Harris will play a part in “exposing collusion, uncovering truth and holding those responsible to account”.
Mr Varadkar said he heard Mr Travers’ interview and expressed sympathy for anyone affected by the Troubles.
He said Mr Harris’s appointment is in line with reforms of the Gardaí in recent years and the government is pleased to appoint him, insisting that he will bring about better policing in Ireland.
Mr Varadkar also pointed out that Mr Harris was “very much involved in the transition from the RUC to the PSNI, which I think we all believe and agree has been a big success.”
Ms McDonald again said the public must have confidence in the new Commissioner and said she believes Mr Harris should address the “deep-seated concerns” raised by Mr Travers and others.
Mr Varadkar said he believes Mr Harris does have the confidence of the public who see his appointment as “an opportunity for new and better policing in Ireland”.
He said that Garda representative associations and Fianna Fáil have been broadly supportive of his appointment.
Mr Varadkar added: “I am a little bit disappointed by the position that you’re taking no which is almost in the space of trying to undermine confidence in the new Garda Commissioner before he’s even taken up office.”
He said: "When it comes to the issues around truth and reconciliation I think everyone has a part to play... everyone who has information about crimes that were committed in the past about atrocities that were inflicted on people should bring that information forward.
“And that applies to Sinn Féin and all the people associated with Sinn Féin as much as it does to anyone else.”